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Changing Faces: transforming confidence and expectations in the workplace

Category: Pro-Opinion, disability, WORKPLACE, Transformation

Changing Faces: transforming confidence and expectations

What Success Looks Like is a new campaign from Changing Faces. It aims to transform confidence and expectations in the workplace around disfigurement for individuals and organisations alike.

It is part of Changing Faces’ mission to promote face equality in all walks of British life.

In the UK today, over 540,000 people have a significant disfigurement to their face from birth marks and congenital conditions, scarring from accidents, warfare or violence, cancer, skin and eye conditions and facial paralysis. Many more have disfigurements to their body.

One in every 100 people of working age therefore has an unusual facial appearance.

What is their experience?

Despite the fact that the Equality Act 2010 protects people with ‘severe’ disfigurements from discrimination, there is clearly a major problem in the workplace. Even in 2014, many are disappointed, feel rejected and even humiliated by their experiences in the workplace, and fear for their futures. Low expectations are common.

When Changing Faces asked people about their working lives, 43% said they’d decided not to apply for a job because they believed their face wouldn’t fit, compared to 4% of people who did not have unusual facial features. 22% had been told by an interviewer that they wouldn’t get a job because of the way they looked. 46% said an interviewer seemed uncomfortable with the way they looked. And 55% thought that their colleagues treated them differently.

We believe a significant percentage of adults of working age face long periods of unemployment or are under-employed despite having appropriate skills, qualifications and experience – all because of the way they look.

Why is this happening?

Very few individuals, interviewers and employers are confident enough to talk about ‘the elephant in the room’:
Candidates don’t discuss their mark, scar or facial condition out of fear of jeopardising their chances – and many ask why they should have to mention it.
Interviewers are fearful of asking the wrong thing or using inappropriate words or being accused of discrimination.

It is also not helpful that:
90% of the UK public find it difficult to attach positive qualities to people with disfigurements (2008 public attitudes survey).
Unconscious prejudices about people with disfigurements are continually reinforced by negative cultural portrayals of them as objects of ridicule, pity or fear.
There appear to be very few public and visible successful role models in business and organisations.
Few organisations have publicly demonstrated that employees with disfigurements are assets rather than liabilities.

This means that employers tend to have low expectations about the capabilities of people with disfigurements, assumptions which have never been challenged.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Changing Faces knows that there are many individuals who have an unusual appearance and are achieving their career goals and many organisations in the UK who do value and reward their contribution.

Changing Faces is now asking these individuals and organisations to come forward and share their stories:

  • How have they talked about a scar or condition in different workplace situations?
  • How have they handled any problems that have arisen?
  • Why have they refused to be influenced by prevailing beliefs about the limitations of people with disfigurements?

By demonstrating what success can and does look like in the workplace we can start to replace the fear of rejection, of causing offence and of being accused of discrimination, with confident dialogue, open-mindedness and fair decision-making.

You can support the campaign by:

  • Reading the success stories on this website.
  • Demonstrating what success looks like by sharing your career story or an example of good practice.
  • If you are having problems in work or finding work, or you are not sure what to say and do if you are an employer, please share your story or ask a question.

Download and test out 'Everything you wanted to know about disfigurement at work but were too afraid to ask’

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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 email [email protected] for more information.

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