If you are looking to change jobs, pushing for a promotion, trying to build a career in a new sector or get back into the workplace, then an inclusive employer that offers a disability-friendly working environment is an attractive proposition.

Your disability should not be a barrier when it comes to your career and knowing about inclusive employment and what you should look for is an important part of your job hunt. So, what should you expect from an inclusive employer when looking for that new role?

Your right to equality in the workplace

According to disability charity, Scope, disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people. But, despite the potential barriers, support and guidance is readily available to get – and keep – you in work.

The first place to start is to know your rights when it comes to work and employment. Under the Equality Act 2010, it is against the law for employers to discriminate against you because of your disability. The Act covers a range of areas, from the initial job application and interview, through to pay, promotion and redundancy, as well as retirement and can also be applied, should you become disabled while already in a job.

Employers are also obliged to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace to ensure you have equality as an employee and that you can successfully fulfil your role. These adjustments can include your working hours as well as physical adaptations to help you do your job.

For more information on the Act and how it protects you in the workplace, visit: www.gov.uk/rights-disabled-person/employment

The benefits of creating an inclusive workplace

Research has indicated that by getting an extra one million disabled people into work, the UK economy could see a £45m boost by 2030. Furthermore, the value of a diverse and inclusive workforce is so much more than financial – to both the employee and their employer. Inclusive Employers, who champion organisations that look to build inclusive workplaces, believe that by embracing diversity, employers can recruit the best candidates and build staff loyalty.

Actively encouraging applications from disabled people is clearly good for business, as confirmed by many of Inclusive Employers’ members, which currently include: Arriva, the Environment Agency, HRMC, Sky and Tesco. An inclusive recruitment and retention policy can not only increase the number of quality applicants but also creates a skilled and knowledgeable workforce that reflects the diversity of the customers or community an organisation serves.

Loyalty among a workforce is also key to an organisation’s success, and by recognising the diverse lifestyles, needs and priorities amongst their staff, employers can get the very best out of their employees.

“Organisations who create an inclusive, disability-friendly work environment are able to recruit and retain the widest talent pool possible”, says Inclusive Employers Special Projects Offi cer, Zeinab Ali, “making them more representative of Society.”

How to identify an inclusive employer

While all employers must adhere to the Equality Act 2010, some employers seem to go that extra mile when it comes to proactively encouraging disabled people to apply. As part of your job hunt you should include some research on organisations that regard themselves as inclusive employers.

Check out their websites and job adverts that state they want to increase diversity or are an equal opportunity employer. The Business Disability Forum: www.businessdisabilityforum.org.uk also lists all its members and many large companies such as Virgin Media and Marks & Spencer have their inclusion policies online.

But don’t be put off applying for your dream job if the organisation isn’t necessarily advertising its ‘inclusive employer’ credentials, they still have to operate under the terms of the Equality Act and you can then ask for adjustments to your interview or to the role if you need them.

Workplace assistance

So what additional assistance should your employer provide to support you in your new job? ‘Reasonable adjustments’ play a key role in removing workplace barriers for staff with both visible and non-visible disabilities, but what does that actually mean?

The Equality Act states that as an employee, you have the right to reasonable adjustments to your workplace or routine to enable you to successfully fulfil your new role. These adjustments should be applied to the recruitment process to enable you to be considered equally as a candidate and continue into the workplace as you join the team. They should also be available if you are already in a job when you acquire a disability.

Many organisations have HR processes already in place to provide the right assistance, but you may need to speak with your employer to agree what you need so you can fulfil the requirements of your job. Examples of reasonable adjustments you can ask for include:

  • Adapted equipment, such as chairs, keyboards or voice-activated software
  • Changes to your work environment, such as lowering desks or modifying entrances
  • Flexible working – including working from home, later start times to allow for travel, compressed working hours or going parttime
  • Additional training, interpreter support, relevant training for colleagues

Reasonable’ applies to what is possible on an individual basis, but you do have the legal right to the tools you need to do your job.

How to help your new employer to help you

Supporting employers to recruit more disabled people is essential to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. However, there is still a lack of awareness within some organisations about disability. “People don’t realise that there are so many hidden disabilities or that any one of us could become disabled tomorrow,” explains Inclusion & Diversity Director for Inclusive Employers, Claire Williams. “Awareness-raising is key, leading to more openness and a willingness to make adaptations if necessary -allowing people just to be themselves and thrive.”

Working together with your employer means you will be able to ensure you can do just that. And there are ways in which you can help them to help you.

Speaking with your boss or HR manager to talk through what may be needed to ensure you can do your job and be an equal member of the team is a good idea to smooth the way. Many reasonable adjustments are inexpensive and any initial outlay to adapt your workspace or routine is likely to be recouped by your employer in terms of productivity.

You can also help your employer by exploring the Access to Work scheme. You may, through the scheme, be able to get a specialist assessment to work out exactly what you need.

Grants for specialised equipment or adaptations may also be available. For more information on the additional support available for both you and your employer, visit: www.gov.uk/access-to-work

Need more guidance for your job hunt?

Scope has a wealth of information and advice on getting back into work and the support available – check out: www.scope.org.uk/support/disabledpeople/work

See also: ‘Be the Difference’, Able Magazine’s own disability recruitment initiative. Visit: www.ablemagazine.co.uk/bethedifference
Email: btd@primasmedia.co.uk

See also: Inclusive Employers: www.inclusiveemployers.co.uk