The media furore surrounding Lord Freud’s comments on disabled people in the work place has clearly touched a nerve in the public conscience. Tab Ahmad, EmployAbility’s Founder and Managing Director joined the debate on the BBC2’s Daily Politics to discuss the topic in more detail, in particular around adjustments employers may need to make when taking on people with disabilities.
As Tab mentions, often the biggest adjustments can be attitudinal. Misconceptions and assumptions about a disabled person’s ability can be a bigger barrier in the workplace than a physical adjustment. Whether through fear, ignorance or lack of education, employers may at times lack the skills to appropriately engage with their disabled employees or job applicants – often out of concern of getting things “wrong”. But, it can be as simple as just asking someone what they need, or providing appropriate channels for these discussions to take place, that can enable disabled employees to effectively participate and be valued in the workplace.
Tab was also interviewed on BBC Radio London on this subject, discussing how it’s important that employers and candidates are aware that adjustments can and should be made at every stage of the recruitment process – from filling out application forms to interviews, through to adaptations in the workplace; then, continued even with a job move, training or promotion. Employers are often concerned that adjustments can be costly or have an impact on the rest of the workforce, but the majority are often under £50 and can be easily accommodated. There are also funds in place, such as Access to Work, to enable even smaller employers to provide adjustments where required
Adequate training and knowledge around disability for not just HR but line managers and those involved in the recruitment process can often help to dispel myths and misunderstandings around common disabilities. With this in place, recruiters can focus on a person’s skills and competencies, whilst allowing for the affects that a disability may have. It is also important that employers understand that questions around disability should be restricted to those focused on adjustments. If required for monitoring purposes, then this should be made clear to applicants and kept separate from information used for job screening purposes.
Complementing all of this, organisations should ensure that they are providing the facility for employees and candidates to disclose a disability. This in itself can be a huge hurdle for people – their own perception of themselves as disabled, or not. can come into play – and it is completely an individual’s choice as to whether they choose to disclose. As we have seen, there are still stigmas around being disabled and negative public comments could make disabled people who want to work even less likely to disclose. This in turn makes them unlikely to receive appropriate adjustments and support to either gain or remain in employment.
There are many other factors at play when disclosing a disability to a (prospective) employer – with particular conditions being more stigmatised than others. The recruitment process, role function, as well as the nature of the disability itself may result in a reluctance to disclose disability. Ultimately, disclosure is often dependent on an individual’s confidence and knowledge about the support they may receive.
EmployAbility is currently running a series of Disability Excellence in Practice masterclasses for employers. To find out more about EmployAbility’s work please click here. If your organisation would like to discuss any of the issues raised or how we can help you to become more disability inclusive, please contact the EmployAbility Team on [email protected].