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Matt Sanders



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Making the case for ‘disabled-confident’ businesses


In July the Government launched a two year campaign to identify and tackle the challenges facing disabled workers across the UK by making businesses more 'disabled-confident'. But in order to bring this campaign to life, there is a huge job to be done in educating businesses about the benefits in creating more inclusive workforces.

There are 1.3 million disabled people in the UK who are available for, and want to work, and the employment rate for disabled people has increased slowly over the years from 42.2% in 2002 to 46.3% in 2012.  As it stands, according to Government research, almost half of disabled jobseekers (42%) cite employers’ attitudes as a key barrier to work.

Understanding disability

There is a clear opportunity to increase the number of disabled people successfully finding work by helping businesses understand the impact of employing people with a disability and that a diverse workforce makes business sense. However this education must come from the HR department.

One of the main reasons that businesses shy away from recruiting disabled workers is that they do not understand exactly what “disability” entails. Disability is defined under the Equality Act 2010 as a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on someone’s ability to do normal daily activities. However from our experience disabled employees can offer UK businesses a wide range of skills and are increasingly loyal and hardworking.

Secondly, many businesses do not feel clear on the legal aspects of recruiting a person with a disability. The most important thing that a business needs to know is that it is against the law to treat an employee less favourably than another employee because of a personal characteristic, such as being disabled.

Also, under the Equality Act 2010, an employer must not ask about a job applicant’s health until that person has been offered a job. An exception to this is if one of the exemptions apply – for which an HR professional can get clear guidance from the CIPD.

Furthermore businesses needn’t be worried about any costs associated with hiring a disabled worker. Usually the cost of making reasonable adjustments to accommodate a disabled person is low and very often funded partly or wholly by the government, through Access to Work.

Why it’s good for business

There are business benefits to be realised from hiring disabled workers. By having access to a significant pool of talent from an often under-utilised workforce, businesses can have a greater choice when recruiting for a new role.

It should go without saying that disabled workers can be just as productive and as reliable as any other employee, but in many instances they can actually exceed that of their counterparts. That’s because from living their day-to-day lives, they will have developed resilience and transferable problem solving skills that are invaluable in the workplace. Also due to the difficulty disabled people face in finding a role, once settled they are less likely to job hop. 

Staff morale will also benefit from knowing that an employer is making a proactive effort to be more inclusive and bringing its CSR strategy to life. Happy workers make for more motivated, productive workers – which directly benefits the bottom line.

For an average business, 20% of their customers could be disabled people, having a workforce that reflects the diverse range of customers it serves, and the community in which it is based, is good for business. Plus it is estimated that disabled people spend £80bn a year in the UK, so having a team that understands this market is a huge opportunity for businesses.


The recruitment process for hiring disabled workers needn’t be difficult. The HR team just needs to be sure that it is offering support to candidates by asking if they need an adjustment to the recruitment process to allow them to be considered for the job. Reasonable requests should be granted and any costly adjustments can normally be subsidised.

Looking ahead

As we look ahead, there is a huge scope for businesses to realise that becoming disabled confident isn’t a case of philanthropy or a ticking a CSR box. Rather, it can be an incredibly positive business decision that yields both cultural and bottom line business benefits. 


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