In the UK more than seven million people of working age have a disability or long term health condition and with the population ageing and people staying in work longer disability confidence is becoming a key priority for HR professionals. ONS predicts that by 2020, 1 in 3 people in the labour force will be over the age of 50 and that there will be 700,000 less people between the ages of 16 and 41.

At present less than half of people with a disability of working age are in employment, and many of those who are find themselves underemployed. However progressive employers are reviewing their hiring processes with the aim of eliminating recruitment barriers and tapping into a highly skilled, but under-represented talent pool. APSCo is currently working alongside the Business Disability Forum (BDF) to develop a best practice guide for disability confidence in an effort to help employers understand how to approach disability in recruitment.

One of the key considerations for HR managers is whether external recruitment partners share their commitment to inclusive hiring practices. Before appointing an external recruiter HR professionals should ensure that they uphold a strong commitment to high quality standards and an outstanding code of conduct. It is also crucial that hiring mangers understand the importance of recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, for this reason many businesses are embedding organisational commitments to disability into induction process for all staff and stipulating that hiring mangers undertake training on unconscious bias.

Defining job roles and preparing the job specification can also be a barrier to attracting disabled candidates, as often overly explicit specifications make it seem like the role can only be filled by someone in a parallel role at a similar company. If similar companies have historically been hesitant when approaching disability it is unlikely that applicants who meet these requirements will include candidates from disabled talent pools. In order to combat this historic bias, HR professionals should be clear about the desired results and deliverables for a role rather than what a candidate ‘needs’ to have in terms of education, skills and experience.

Considering which recruitment channels to use and how these may impact disabled candidates is also important. For example, best practice approaches may include ensuring that any job boards or websites where businesses advertise meet, as a minimum, the W3C standard for global web accessibility and having external recruitment partners sign up to the BDF Recruitment Service Provider Protocol. It is also important to consider that it may take disabled candidates longer to complete online application process, and that a recruiter may require extra time to source diverse candidates.

When assessing CVs it is also important to ensure that hirers remove any unconscious bias. Disabled candidates may have had a less formal education or have spent periods out of work due to periods of rehabilitation. In order to overcome unconscious bias, HR professionals should ensure that they only ask directly relevant questions, give candidates the opportunity to explain experiences outside of the workplace and indicate a willingness to accept other levels of qualification or grades where candidates can provide mitigating circumstances.

During the assessment process it is also crucial that reasonable adjustments are made to online psychometric assessments, such as giving candidates extra time, or ensuring they are accessible for people with visual impairments. In the case of group assessments, which are often used to gauge leadership skills, it is vital that HR professionals make adjustments to ensure disabled candidates can perform to the best of their ability, a candidate with a hearing impairment, for example, might require a sign language interpreter or simply for the interviewer to ensure that only one person speaks at a time.

APSCo is passionate about workplace diversity and is encouraging all of its member to be so too, the best practice guide aims to provide HR professionals with guidance on how to become disability confident, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because of its clear business advantages.

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