Many disabled people remain frustrated and disenfranchised at the seeming lack of opportunity for them in the workplace. Able Magazine wants to start to make a real change. The Ofﬁce for National Statistics (ONS) recently published ﬁgures highlighting the employment gap between disabled people and able-bodied people. Despite plenty of promises over the years by government, the numbers have stayed disappointingly similar for the last decade!
We all want to see this gap close but it won’t happen unless we act.
Able Magazine is taking a proactive approach and will be inviting like-minded organisations to join our new ‘Be the Difference’ initiative which launched on 1 July.
The message of the initiative is quite simply: ‘We want you’ That means approaching companies and organisations and showing them the scale of the task that successive governments have failed to tackle. Not only that but actively encouraging them to reach out to disabled people directly and speciﬁ cally, to tell them that they have job opportunities for them. Only with this positive action are we likely to see a difference. We’re asking employers to ‘Be the Difference’. We want to make organisations aware of the disparities that exist between disabled people and able-bodied people in the workplace and encourage them to make meaningful changes in the ways that they regard, recruit and retain disabled employees.
We believe that every company and organisation should be representative of the community they serve so we hope that every employer will strive towards proactively recruiting more employees with disabilities that properly reﬂects the national picture, where around 20% of people are affected by disability.
The Figures – and the current reality…
Earlier this year a House of Commons briefing paper, “People with Disabilities in Employment” was published based on ONS figures. Among the headline figures was the statement: “The employment rate for people with disabilities was 1.3 percentage points higher in April-June 2017 than in the same period in 2016. In this period the number of people with disabilities in employment has risen by 104,000.” Whilst the employment rate of disabled people might have advanced slightly over the period, it’s also likely that a greater number of people present themselves as disabled and are more likely to declare their disability in the workplace. Firstly, they may already have been in the workplace (before declaring their disability) and secondly, there may now be a slightly more positive outlook regarding disability generally. Surely people would be unlikely to declare their disability if they felt that it would damage their prospects, so perhaps this interpretation cancels out the ‘growth’.
Governments have launched schemes in an attempt to steer the figures into an upward trajectory. The Disability Confident scheme, for example, was launched personally, and in a blaze of publicity, by then Prime Minister, David Cameron in 2013 and given an overhaul and re-launch in 2016. It may not be unfair to suggest that it now really only exists in the way that the previous incarnation ‘two ticks’ did – as a small logo on headed paper. This isn’t how it was meant to be but this is what’s happened. What ‘Be the Difference’ sets out to do is to say to disabled people that read Able Magazine and visit our website, that there are organisations that want to employ you. By joining the ‘Be the Difference’ initiative they’ll be making a bold statement about the way they want to recalibrate diversity, specifically regarding disability in their workforces.
The other major action taken by the current government was to make a manifesto pledge to get a million more disabled people into work. Cynics however, have argued that this pledge wasn’t aimed at supporting disabled people as much as it was about placating the restless concerns of some voters who view working age disabled people as nothing more than ‘benefit scroungers’.
Life Chances – we need to make changes
Other figures can be used to explain how so many disabled people find themselves in long term unemployment. For instance, the employment rate was highest for disabled people aged 2549 at 56.4% – and still falling far short of the overall able-bodied employment rate mentioned (80.6%). The employment rate among disabled people was lowest for those aged 16-24 at just 38.2%.
The figures that best outline the challenge ahead of us are that there were 3.5 million disabled people of working age (16-64) in employment between April and June 2017, an employment rate of 49.2% whereas the employment rate for people without disabilities was 80.6%.
The Government has traditionally placed the onus on disabled people to become job-ready through education, training and even voluntary work experience and on employers to try harder to make their recruitment processes more accessible and their workplaces more universally suitable for a variety of employers rather than applying stricter regulation. In any case, it hasn’t worked.
The fact is that manifesto promises and schemes run with the approval of the Government have failed to inspire real change and have caused no discernible impact on the figures.
Some of the answers are obvious but in all cases require more than lip service. Yes, employers need to work on creating true disability equality employment policies covering items such as: disability related sickness absence, disability leave, flexible working and time off for medical appointments but they also need to communicate properly with disabled people.
The fact is that there are lots of employers that are seeking a robust method of recruiting disabled people in an effort to reflect what’s happening in the UK today where, as mentioned, around 20% of the population are living with disability.
Energising – disabled people and employers
The Government should certainly continue to work with employers to create an inclusive environment where disability isn’t stigmatised but is ‘normalised’. It would be energising to the disabled community to feel empowered to declare their disabilities – as well as being inspired by those same people who need to be valued and respected as individuals with something to offer in the workplace. This would also make it easier for disabled people to ask for adjustments and so it follows, to help people who develop an impairment whilst at work, stay in work.
What’s become clear is that a new approach is needed. Able Magazine will be inviting organisations to join ‘Be the Difference’ to showcase their inclusive recruitment methods while at the same time advertising their job opportunities that they’d like to be taken up by disabled people.
The ‘Be the Difference’ initiative launched on 1 July 2018. Change – or difference – is well overdue and that’s why we’ve committed to do as much as we can to rally our readers, advertisers and other partners to do everything we can to ‘be the difference’.
Able Magazine will be inviting organisations to join ‘Be the Difference’ and advertise the job opportunities that they’d like to be taken up by disabled people.
Find out more here: https://ablemagazine.co.uk/bethedifference/