The Social Market Foundation estimates that raising disability employment to the national average would boost the UK economy by at least £13 billion. On average, disabled employees are just as productive as non-disabled people, have significantly less time off, fewer workplace accidents, and stay in their jobs longer. They have inside intelligence on the “purple pound” (the estimated £212 billion that the disabled spend annually in the UK), and can bring specific skills with them (some people with Autism can be exceptionally good at computer programming, for example). Employing a person with a learning disability has been shown to offer a potential saving of £2,000, based on absence cover and recruitment costs.
But, despite the evidence to show the benefits of employing people with disabilities, we have a long way to go to close the disability employment gap. Currently 46.7% of disabled people are in work, compared with the 80.3% of non-disabled people.
Although the UK has laws to protect disabled people from discrimination, many of us still make assumptions about people with disabilities. For example, a colleague with a learning disability told me “on occasion, some people I have asked to assist me with my job search assumed that I wouldn’t be able to compete with others for administrative roles and had suggested that I work in the retail sector instead. This was until they learned I had a Masters degree in English Literature and previous experience in administration.”
Assumptions like this are why some people with disabilities choose to not disclose their disability to their employer or interviewers, even though disclosure may actually make their day-to-day working life easier and more enjoyable.
However, many people with disabilities feel that if they disclose their disability during the interview process, their chances of getting a job will be significantly reduced. Unfortunately these fears are not unfounded. Last year, the BBC reported that the employment rate of people with learning disabilities has been dropping for four years in a row and there are common examples of when an employer will not hire someone with a disability, regardless of whether the person is the most qualified candidate for the job.
To attract disabled candidates and provide an inclusive environment for disabled employees, we need to consider the importance of good communication. Communication needs to be free from assumptions, biases and should use inclusive language. Our top tips on inclusive communications are:
- Don’t use acronyms – they will automatically exclude people who either don’t know what they mean or who use assistive technologies to communicate, such as a screen-reader. These technologies may not understand how to communicate acronyms.
- Consider your audience – if you are trying to attract a diverse group of candidates to a role, make sure the role information is available in different forms and that it is appropriate to the role you are recruiting for.
- Be authentic – if you don’t know how to communicate best with a disabled person, ask them. It’s ok not to know about all types of disability but do be open to learning and be flexible in your approach.
- Consider what is easy to read – colour, contrast, font, size, italics, capitalisation. If your disabled colleague cannot access the information they need they will not be able to perform their job to the best of their ability.
- Ask yourself, who would this communication exclude?
If you would like to know more about making your workplace inclusive or employing a diverse group of people please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org