Employers need to improve the way they support people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

The situation

There are more than 7 million people of working age with a disability or long-term health condition in the UK. Around half of them are in work but many more would like to work, and they represent a great source of skills and talent.   

Many people with disabilities and long-term health conditions either face prejudice or a lack of provision when it comes to the support they need to help them reach their potential or, sometimes, to even remain in work. Too many people working with a disability choose not to share this information with their employer for fear of negative consequences (in terms of their career or job security).

The issue will only grow in prominence as a result of our ageing working population; this means employers will need to improve how they manage and support growing numbers of people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

 

CIPD viewpoint

As a Disability Confident Leader, the CIPD is firmly committed to ensuring that people with disabilities or long-term health conditions do not face additional barriers in recruitment – at work, when accessing training, or in progressing their careers.

Taking a proactive and inclusive approach to managing disability, and ensuring equality of opportunity and outcomes, can bring many benefits for organisations and the people who work for them. The benefits include commitment from employees, being able to recruit and retain people with skillsets the organisation needs and the ability to tap into different perspectives and skills which can boost innovation and performance.

Businesses that aren’t inclusive – and don’t support people with disabilities and long-term health conditions – risk their wider reputation as an employer and business, as well as legal action if they fail to comply with equalities law.

A key issue is ensuring that line managers are aware of their responsibilities for enabling reasonable adjustments: these adjustments are often straightforward and inexpensive, such as providing flexibility over working patterns. We’ve worked with the Department for Work and Pensions to create a good practice guide for line managers on recruiting, managing and developing people with a disability or health condition.

 

Actions for the UK Government

  • Launch a major, ongoing and well-resourced campaign to raise awareness of how employers can develop inclusive cultures, thus ensuring people with a disability or health condition access, stay in and thrive at work. Encourage a culture of inclusion among employers and align it with the Disability Confident campaign.
  • Nominate a director of work and health to work with employers and across government departments to improve the recruitment, retention and progression of people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.
  • Work with employer and professional bodies to encourage and enable more firms to voluntarily report on disabilities in their workforce using the DWP framework. See also our practical guide with the Business Disability Forum on voluntary workforce reporting. 
  • Review the Access to Work scheme to ensure it is more user-friendly for employers and better promoted.

 

Recommendations for employers

  • Review your organisation’s policy on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) relating to disability and your current process for making adjustments for employees. Identify whether it’s fit for purpose, and effective in meeting the needs of the business whilst supporting employees.

  • Ensure the culture of the organisation is one where people feel comfortable to share information about their health and disability, and to request reasonable adjustments.

  • Develop an action plan for change and assign accountability to people in senior roles. Our disability and employment factsheet provides some areas to consider.

  • Follow good recruitment practices, such as the Recruitment Charter launched by the Business Disability Forum, or those identified in our recruitment factsheet or inclusive recruitment guide, developed with the Behavioural Insights Team.

  • Network with other employers who are developing disability-related workplace practices to share learning and experiences. Keep up to date with good practice and legal developments.

  • Ensure that line managers are appropriately trained with the skills they need to manage employees inclusively, and the knowledge to understand their legal obligations (as well as their employer’s policy expectation). Line managers need to know how to sensitively navigate conversations about disability and health conditions with employees and understand what they need to do to arrange and implement adjustments.

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