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Almost half of UK businesses apprehensive about hiring someone with a disability, research finds

Almost half of UK businesses (45%) are apprehensive about hiring someone with a disability because of fears they won’t be able to do the job and concerns about making inappropriate comments or actions, according to new research.


The findings were revealed as part of a survey of a thousand businesses to coincide with the launch of Purple - a new not-for-profit organisation which goes live today - dedicated to improving employment opportunities for disabled people by supporting both business and individual.


The organisation, which marks its launch today by opening the London Stock Exchange, states it is unique in offering both consultancy and recruitment services to help businesses drive inclusive employment strategies, whilst providing disabled people with greater levels of employment support. 


The organisation aims to help more than 20,000 disabled people to find permanent jobs over the next decade, whilst simultaneously matching 25,000 personal assistants to disabled employers.


Purple carried out the research to determine the current barriers for business in employing disabled workers and found that one in five business owners and hiring managers (22%) admit they are worried about interviewing someone with a disability in case they do or say the wrong thing. Fears include using the incorrect terminology (32%) and not knowing whether they should help with things such as opening doors or pulling out chairs (38%). One in five employers (21%) said falling foul of discrimination law was a real concern.


The findings also revealed almost half of all employers (43%) expect disabilities to be disclosed on an applicant’s CV prior to interview, despite there being no legal obligation to do so.


Disabled people already fall significantly behind the rest of the population when it comes to the majority of wellbeing standards. Of the UK’s 11.5m disabled people, just 11% are currently in work, compared to 80% of non-disabled people.


Daily living costs are on average 25% higher than for non-disabled people and disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty.


According to Purple, this latest research suggests misconceptions and prejudices are preventing disabled people from finding employment, with many being squeezed out of the job market at the first hurdle, regardless of professional ability.


Chief executive of Purple, Mike Adams, said, “We’ve always known that being disabled means you’re more likely to be unemployed and this has a real impact on both the career opportunities and quality of life.  What this latest research tells us is that in fact it isn’t disability that’s the barrier to finding employment, but the worries and misconceptions of business owners themselves. This isn’t just a barrier for disabled people, but for many businesses missing out on valuable employee skills and talent, as well as powerful consumer opportunity.


“With Purple we are taking a new, brave and bold approach to the problem. We want to work with business to address concerns whilst upskilling individuals to seize the opportunities available. We will give business and individual an equal voice and by not being afraid to tackle the issues on both sides we will change the conversation on disability employment.”


The benefits to businesses in creating a diverse workforce are huge, with the disability market, or ‘Purple Pound’ in the UK worth £212bn a year. For wider society, just five percentage point increase in the disability employment rate would lead to an increase in GDP of £23bn by 2030.


As part of its offering Purple will work with businesses and organisations to helping them become accredited as part of the Government’s Disability Confident scheme.


Jo Clay, head of inclusive resourcing at Equal Approach, commented, “These figures are disappointing, but they are not surprising. While UK organisations have come a long way since the launch of the Disability Confident campaign in 2013, there is still a long way to go. Organisations’ fear of getting it wrong can often be more powerful than their desire to get it right, resulting in them being cautious about recruiting individuals with disabilities (which is discriminatory). The business case for employing individuals with disabilities is undisputable, and ‘fears they won’t be able to do the job’ are unfounded. Organisations can make simple changes to their processes and policies in order to become more inclusive for individuals with disabilities, and should deliver disability awareness training to their teams in order to educate them, and avoid inappropriate comments or actions.”


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