It’s common knowledge there’s a big gap between the employment rate for disabled people and non-disabled people. The government wants to halve this gap and has criticised employers for being both reluctant to take on disabled employees, and too quick to write off employees who fall ill.
So what’s the solution?
Making the case for employing disabled people isn’t hard. 90% of disabled people have worked before or are currently in work, so many hold valuable skills and experience. Despite this, just 46% are in employment. With around 6 million working age people in the UK being disabled or having a health condition, employers are missing out on a major pool of talent.
So why aren’t employers hiring people with disabilities? Unfortunately myths and misconceptions are still prevalent among many employers. One such misconception is that it’s too expensive for an employer to employ a disabled person, largely due to the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that need to be made.
One such misconception is that it’s too expensive for an employer to employ a disabled person
We need to debunk such myths, because despite the misconception about costs, reasonable adjustments can generally be made at little or no cost to the employer. Financial support is available through the government’s Access to Work scheme and most are minor adjustments that don’t involve physical changes to the workplace.
This is where the Disability Confident Campaign comes in. Revived in October 2015, the government campaign aims to make employers ‘disability confident’ by dispelling misconceptions, challenging attitudes and increasing understanding of disability. Ultimately the government wants to encourage employers to employ more disabled people in order to close the disability employment gap.
Although well-intentioned, the campaign has drawn criticism. Disabled people have felt patronised, believing the tone of the campaign is “go on, give a disabled person a job”, rather than helping disabled people to become more confident themselves.
But encouraging employers to employ more disabled people is only one side of the coin. 83% of disabled people acquire their disability while employed. What happens to them?
83% of disabled people acquire their disability while employed. What happens to them?
As the government stated earlier this year, employers can be quick to write off these employees rather than focusing on helping them return to work. Nobody benefits from this situation. The employer loses an experienced employee and the employee loses their job.
With welfare cuts on the horizon, the employee also faces a serious challenge looking after themselves.
This is where employers can do more to support both themselves and their employees. Despite only 1.22% of employers holding a policy, Group Income Protection can provide both employers and their employees with support above and beyond what the government provides.
If an employee becomes seriously ill or disabled during their employment, Group Income Protection pays out a percentage of the employee’s salary while they are unable to work, which can continue until the employee reaches pension age. Many also offer rehabilitation services, including access to medically-trained rehabilitation consultants, who not only help get employees back to work, but can advise employers on the more difficult aspects of the return, such as making ‘reasonable adjustments’.
We need both the government and employers to act in order to close the disability employment gap. As well as becoming ‘disability confident’, employers need to do more to support, retain and hire employees who become disabled during their working life.
With such a clear pool of talent available, employees aren’t the only ones who’ll benefit.