A Survation poll commissioned by executive search firm Inclusive Boards has revealed that the majority of business leaders are apprehensive about recruiting disabled people to a senior position.

Only 11% or 1 in 10 of over 1000 leaders surveyed said they wouldn’t be apprehensive about recruiting a disabled person to a senior role. In addition, two thirds of those surveyed did not know any senior disabled leaders. 7.6 million people of working age (16-64) reported that they were disabled in January-March 2019, 1 in 5 (nearly 20%) of the working age population.

The research commissioned by agency Inclusive Boards with Survation gives an insight into the thoughts of business leaders on disabled people in senior leadership. The main reason given for business leaders being apprehensive was that they felt making the necessary adjustments would cost a lot of money. This was despite the average cost of reasonable adjustments being just £75.

Samuel Kasumu, Director of Inclusive Boards said:

“The findings of this poll show just how far we are as a society from truly understanding how to engage with disability within the workplace. There are many disabled people that have just as much talent and leadership potential as anyone else. We need to educate businesses and challenge many misconceptions.”

The survey also found that:

  • 41% felt that disabled people might take a lot of sick leave and 45% said their offices wouldn’t be accessible to disabled people.
  • Given the opportunity to respond openly respondents also said ‘[disabled people’s capabilities might not be enough to carry the job properly’ and ‘they didn’t think disabled people could cope with] the high stress involved with executive life]’
  • One third did not think their organisation would benefit from employing a disabled person.

In response to the findings Inclusive Boards is building a toolkit aimed at supporting organisations and sectors to improve the representation of disabled people on Boards and in senior leadership positions.

The toolkit will be launched at the House of Commons on the 9th of September. Prime Minister Theresa May has also recently announced a new Office for Tackling Injustices, which will publish official data of disparities impacting disabled people and othermarginalised groups.

Angela Matthews, Head of Policy and Research, Business Disability Forum, said:

“The fact that only 11 per cent of leaders feel comfortable recruiting a disabled person to a senior role is not only striking, but very sad for us as a society. This survey highlights some of prejudices and inaccuracies around disability which continue to exist and which make it difficult for people to talk openly about their disability. Recruiting senior staff should never be about whether or not a person has a disability. It should be about recruiting people with the best talent and skills to take the organisation forward.”

Mark Hodgkinson, Chief Executive at disability equality charity Scope, said:

“Many businesses are missing out on a huge pool of disabled talent. We know that employers who recognise the potential of disabled people at all levels of their organisation will thrive. Becoming an inclusive employer needs to be a priority for all businesses, large and small. The most important step for companies is to recognise the need to make a start.”

Inclusive Boards are the UK’s leading board appointments firm, specialising in attracting high-level diverse talent through a network of over 60,000 professionals. They operate across sectors including sport, to charities and social investment. Inclusive Boards’ cutting-edge research has featured in the Independent, Guardian, Daily Mail and more.

Samuel Kasumu, Director of Inclusive Boards is also a member of the Prime Minister’s Race Disparity Advisory Board.

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