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Tackling barriers to disability one step at a time

By  Kate Headley, Director of Consulting at the Clear Company and spokesperson for the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative

When you consider that there are seven million working age people in the UK who have a disability, and only 46 per cent of those are currently in work, there is no doubt that the recruitment profession is missing out on a vast sea of talent. I recently spoke at a diversity event, hosted by Recruitment International, to share how we can overcome barriers to disability one step at a time.  

According to recent research, up to 90 per cent of disabled jobseekers would not disclose their disability during the recruitment process.  But if employees cant be themselves at work employers dont stand a chance of getting the best out of them. We have to begin by understanding what disability means - that is, a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. It is worth noting that only one in eight disabled people use a wheelchair and a disability does not necessarily mean that a person will need constant attention, or an employer will need to make monumental changes to facilitate them. In fact, according to the Health and Safety Executive, disabled people take less days off sick and have fewer accidents in the workplace.     

After working in recruitment for more than 20 years, I understand that the pace of the profession, coupled with client pressure, means that it sometimes seems we dont have the time or resources to reassess practices. However, the tide is certainly shifting; your clients are increasingly being asked to provide evidence of their diversity policy in order to secure business. And in turn, businesses are looking to engage with forward-thinking suppliers which are clued-up and proactive.

Reform lies in the power of collaboration, and although it may be daunting to face the task of becoming more inclusive to disabled talent, making the change boils down to five simple steps:

1.       Make the case for change. Whatever the reason - whether that be a desire to be the best, fear of breaking the law or a need to widen your current talent pool in an increasing competitive market colleagues need to know why employing disabled people is relevant to your organisation, clients and other stakeholders.

2.       Get back to basics. Review each stage of the recruitment process from job adverts to on-boarding and strip it down. For example, a shortlist index works well have a list of attributes youre looking for and tick them off if you find them. Dont over-complicate things. The simpler the better.
  
3.       Make sure your recruiters are confident on disability. There is a myriad of advice out there take advantage of it to ensure they know what questions to ask and when.

4.       Find disabled talent. The key to seeking out disabled talent lies in collaboration. If you work in partnership with trusted and disability confident suppliers, disabled people will apply.

5.       Make reasonable adjustments. Be sure of what adjustments you should make, when these will need to be put in place, and how they will be funded. The Governments Access to Work fundmay be able to help employers cover costs of disabilities that might be a barrier to work.

A theme that ran throughout Recruitment Internationals diversity event was this; if you are not confident on diversity you will simply not be able to compete for business in the UK. If you are making small steps to increase the inclusion of disabled talent, dont keep quiet about it. Enter the RIDI Awards today. The awards are free to enter and attend so what have you got to lose? I look forward to hearing your stories.  




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