Category: disability at work, action on disability, disability awareness training, disabled employee, employee network, Disability Confident, disability, Neurodiversity, Dyslexia, Aon, Hidden Disabilities, Disability Awareness, Disability and Neurodiversity, Disability Inclusion, Disability Inclusive, Disabilities, support network, Network, networking, staff network group
Left: Broking Consultant Lindsay Greener Middle: UK Senior Consultant, Sarah Green Right: Training Manager, Jeremy Fry.
The employment rate for disabled people aged 16-64 years was 53.2% in 2019, compared with 81.8% for non-disabled people. Although nothing like the figure we want to see, the difference in the employment rate between disabled and non-disabled people has reduced since 2013, from 34.2 percentage points to 28.6 percentage points in 2019. This is a positive step in closing this employment gap, but how can we further reduce this and what can individual companies do to help?
The acceleration in companies taking Diversity and Inclusion seriously and becoming more inclusive of disabled workers will, in our opinion, help draw this gap in. But how do companies achieve a disability inclusive workplace? We spoke to leaders of the Workability Business Resource Group at Aon to discover how they are succeeding in this space.
Chairing this Group from Aon is Broking Consultant, Lindsay Greener. Alongside Lindsay, we interviewed UK Senior Consultant, Sarah Green and Training Manager, Jeremy Fry.
Each of today’s trio of disability advocates has a personal story to tell and together they passionately lead the Workability Group at Aon, drawing on their own personal experiences to help others.
The Group, named ‘Workability’ to promote the abilities of its members rather than their disabilities, works to support 40-60 employees which incorporates colleagues with visible disabilities and hidden disabilities, as well as carers and allies, but how is it helpful to these groups of people?
“The Group is useful in two ways. First of all, people that identify with specific groups can find mutual help and people who have a similar lifestyle to them that they can talk to and bat ideas off.
“Then, on the flip side, people that may have no association with disability can join the group and gain a better understanding and respect for those groups,” said Sarah.
With Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue disorder, Sarah is registered disabled and now works at Aon fully remotely, describing the company as “fantastic” in supporting her in this regard.
Sarah was diagnosed six years ago and, unlike her experience of previous employers, where she would need to take sick days if she couldn’t get into the office, she has found the flexibility to work completely remotely at Aon. She said:
“I find Aon’s approach is vastly ahead of other companies in terms of flexibility. I was encouraged to work from home which was complete driver for me taking the job.”
Jeremy is a carer for his partner who has Multiple Sclerosis and, with vast personal knowledge of the reality of being a carer, plays a major part in offering this support to others through the Workability Group.
“I look through that prism my partner went through on her own journey and it involved reasonable adjustments and changes to work patterns and I learned a lot about understanding how it works. I like to think, in a similar situation, I might be able to offer something in the way of experience,” he said.
One thing that emerged from our interview was that staff inclusivity networks can not only help people with diverse characteristics themselves, but also people who want to learn more about the challenges those characteristics present.
“For people that have no direct knowledge of the struggles others have it can make them blinkered. So, from a business perspective, it’s about making it personal. At the end of the day we’re all people and it makes sure we are all accurately supported and can support each other,” said Lindsay.
A huge part of the group’s agenda recently has been to highlight the challenges people with hidden disabilities face. With a close family member with a neurological condition, Lindsay draws on her own understanding to help drive this agenda forward.
“It’s underrepresented. A hidden disability can be neurological e.g. dyslexia, and people can feel they have to hide it. We have the Head of Health, Safety and Wellbeing sitting within the Workability Group now and she is liaising with different organisations to secure the right assistive technology that people need.
“It’s about signposting and raising awareness for those coming to work with issues. Jeremy ran a hidden disabilities session and it’s about not making assumptions,” she said.
One way to display that you have a hidden disability is by wearing the sunflower lanyard, which many non-maskers are currently doing. But a strong feeling amongst our interviewees was that this message and the meaning behind the sunflower lanyard needs propelling further into society.
“The mainstream news on masks has flown the flag on what we’re trying to achieve. Tesco’s now has a poster on sunflower lanyards. If supermarkets can show their support of this that’s a call for society to do the same,” said Sarah.
When it comes to physical disabilities, Aon offer accessible offices and flexible working arrangements where they can.
“Aon moved very much to a flexible structure a while ago. As standard practice, the business is agile and laptops are issued to suit flex, remote and agile work. It depends on the business’s needs but I can’t imagine many roles where someone would be expected to be fully office based,” said Lindsay.
To change the statistics we first mentioned and provide an equal working landscape for disabled workers requires further understanding, the offer of reasonable workplace adjustments and a readiness to support employees on an individual basis. Something Aon is working hard at pushing forward.
“To make change you need it to happen from the bottom, grass roots up, but also management and board level, and that’s what Aon has really brought together,” said Lindsay.