Category: Blogger's Corner, inclusion, diversity, employment, investment, Opportunity
Although the phrase ‘pecking order’ may be harsh, I’m sure we can all agree that every organisation has to prioritise certain areas when attempting to improve diversity and inclusion, and although there are areas such as Gender and Age which do affect more people, many areas of diversity, such as Race and LGBT affect less people than disability, and yet there still appears to be far less obvious support for this minority.
In no way am I saying that any minority should gain more support than any other – I would not want to see a decrease in networks designed to help any minority smash their glass ceiling – but there are 6.9 million disabled people of working age in the UK, this is 19% of our working age population and yet, according to the Papworth Trust, in January 2016 the UK employment rate for disabled people was 46.5%, compared to 84% of non-disabled people. This gap of 37.5% is shocking in itself, but it’s made far worse by the fact that the average employment gap across Europe is only 25%. The UK may think we are a leading force in disability simply because we did a great job with the Paralympics, but unfortunately we are falling behind!
There are still common misconceptions around disability and many organisations seem to simply forget that this area needs similar investment and support to other minorities. It seems that currently, we just aren’t giving disabled people the chance to prove themselves as nearly half of adults with impairments say the most common barrier to work is a lack of job opportunities. Not only would encouraging disabled people into employment have a positive impact socially, but a 10% rise in the employment rate amongst disabled adults would contribute an extra £12 billion to the Exchequer by 2030. But it’s hard to see how we can progress when 4 in 10 people think of the disabled population as ‘less productive’ than able-bodied.
Unfortunately, not only is there an issue in gaining employment, but just as with other minorities, there is an obvious pay gap, as disabled men earn 11% less than their non-disabled counterparts and the gap between disabled women and able-bodied is double this at 22%.
It is important for organisations to start making themselves both seen as welcoming to disabled people and physically making their working environments disability friendly, because there is no point doing one and not the other as you will either get zero disabled people applying for roles when you can cater for them, or you’ll be bombarded with applications but with zero ability to follow through.
I wish I had a magic instant solution, but there are already some existing facilities to support employers who do want to make a difference such as the Business Disability Forum, the government’s Access to Work Scheme (which funds support workers, equipment, etc.) and many charities who can provide excellent advice and back-up. Perhaps the important message is to realise there is a problem and to want to make a change.
Statistics taken from Papworth Trust, Disabled Living Foundation and Scope.
Georgie Bullen FRSA is a GB Paralympian and the Director of Team Insight - a team building and visual impairment awareness training events organisation.
VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email [email protected] for more information.
We are also officially recommended by Disability Confident as a step on achieving Employer status, please click here for more information.