EmployAbility launches a new series of Masterclasses – Disability Excellence in Practice

13 Aug 2014

At the end of July, EmployAbility launched the first of our new series of masterclasses – Disability Excellence in Practice. Hosted by Shell at their Canary Wharf offices, the EA team were joined by over 15 different organisations ready to learn about how to improve and implement disability inclusive practices into their recruitment processes.

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The class had a packed agenda, so proceedings were swiftly kicked off  by Shell’s Claire Wrighton, European Recruitment Manager, who spoke about Shell’s commitment to attracting, recruiting and retaining disabled talent, followed by an introduction to EmployAbility and the work we do by our Founder and MD, Tab Ahmad. The main session started with a disability quiz that caused some debate. It was interesting to see how many knew that 70% of disabilities are hidden, or that only 17% of people are born with their disability. These and other such stats framed the session, enabling people to ask questions and be open about areas that they were uncertain about.

To ensure everyone was on the same page for the session, we recommended the use of the Equality Act 2010 definition, as one that is simple but comprehensive, which in itself caused some discussion.

Under the Equality Act 2010, disability is defined as“a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities”.

This definition covers everything from dyslexia and dyspraxia, to physical disability, sensory impairments, mental health issues and long term health conditions – even when in remission, such as cancer, Crohn’s disease and HIV. This led to further discussion around the Equality Act 2010 and how employers can make sure their actions are compliant with the legislation.

If the physical features of the work premises or the working arrangements are the prohibiting factor to a disabled person gaining or staying in employment, then the employer must make reasonable adjustments to remove these barriers.

Employers are frequently unsure about what constitutes a ‘reasonable’ adjustment – but the focus can be misplaced on asking employees to justify adjustments, or being caught up in what may or may not be ‘reasonable’. Often if an adjustment is required (as an employee cannot work effectively without it), and an organisation is a relatively large one, then it is likely that it will be deemed to be ‘reasonable’ under the above 2010 legislation.

Adjustments apply at many points in the process – from recruitment through to on-boarding, in the workplace, and then for any training or role changes. Key to understanding adjustments is open communication and not making assumptions about what a person can (or cannot) do, in relation to their disability.

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Much of the discussion then centred on disability disclosure – both on encouraging candidates to disclose, and then handling any related communication to implement relevant adjustments, as well as taking into account and understanding extenuating circumstances relating to disability.

Employers wanted to ensure candidates felt able to describe the impact of their disability on their studies, and that there were appropriate channels for this in their recruitment processes and once in employment.  There was discussion around why candidates might not wish to disclose and the factors relating to this, such as industry sector, perception of the organisation, the nature of their disability, and their own confidence.  Late disclosure during the recruitment process or once in employment was also an issue that was flagged up, and the best way to handle this.

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The session finished with a discussion about disability etiquette, on not making assumptions,  not defining people by their impairment, and not using language such as “suffers from” or “a victim of” to attribute negative emotions to someone’s disability.  Instead, it is helpful to communicate effectively, use a common sense approach, and to understand that improving access means removing barriers in employment (be these physical or attitudinal).

EmployAbility is the not-for-profit organization that takes a collaborative and partner-based approach to connecting business with disabled talent. We work with disabled students and graduates in the transition from education to employment; and with businesses seeking to attract from a wider pool of talent and become more disability inclusive.

If you’d like to know more about EmployAbility and our work, please click here or get in touch on info@employ-ability.org.uk

To view EmployAbility’s current list of internships and vacancies for disabled students and graduates, please click here.

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I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you as well. I think its been incredibly tough for me to deal with learning that I have dyslexia and navigating what this means for me in terms of my career and it has at times really affected my confidence but I am really grateful to you and Employability because its nice to know people care about people like myself.

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