November 2017 will mark the first anniversary of the Government’s Disability Confident scheme. In its first 12 months the scheme has come a long way. There are already almost 5,000 Disability Confident organisations across the UK, and CIPD research suggests that employers will benefit from the new and innovative ideas that disabled employees can bring to the workplace.
But there is still more to do. Disability Confident has the potential to radically improve the lives of disabled people across the UK in the future.
The Government and Disability Confident Leader Organisations like AdviserPlus must continue to work hard to highlight the benefits to employers and their employees.
What is the Disability Confident scheme?
The Disability Confident scheme was designed to help employers improve how they recruit, develop and retain disabled people, replacing the disability symbol, ‘Two-Tick’ scheme. Disability Confident provides employers with the flexibility to identify the best ways for their organisation to support disabled people.
Disability Confident has three levels: Disability Confident Committed, Level 1; Disability Confident Employer, Level 2; and Disability Confident Leader, Level 3.
Disability Confident aims to challenge attitudes, remove barriers and ensure disabled people have the opportunity to realise their potential and aspirations.
The new scheme was developed by the Department for Work and Pensions in partnership with leading employers and disabled people’s representatives.
AdviserPlus was one of the first organisations to be asked to collaborate on the scheme’s development, due to our expertise in supporting more than 40,000 line managers working with over 300,000 employees across different sectors.
The most important element of Disability Confident is that it’s business-led with Disability Confident Leaders and disabled people’s user-led organisations validating other employers to become Disability Confident Leaders.
For instance, AdviserPlus recently validated both the CIPD and London 2017, the organisation behind this year’s World Para Athletics Championships and the IAAF World Championships, as Disability Confident Leaders.
To maintain their Disability Confident, Level 3 status, these Leader organisations are also expected to share best practice so that other employers can learn from practical examples obtained through real world experience, rather than business management theory.
Expanding into new markets
The Government has big ambitions for the Disability Confident scheme, aiming to support a further one million disabled people into work. Well-known employer brands that have already signed up, have a role to play in encouraging other employers that have not yet signed up to get involved and can help the scheme to progress into the SME market to build on the success to date.
Small and medium sized enterprises make up 99% of all private sector businesses and are responsible for 60% of all private sector employment in the UK. Encouraging these businesses to become Disability Confident is vital if we are to improve the employment opportunities available for disabled people.
This will require existing Disability Confident Leader organisations to demonstrate how SMEs can attract and retain disabled employees, providing tailored advice on steps for smaller companies, which don’t have large HR departments or huge budgets.
Smaller employers may not be able to progress quickly to Disability Confident Leader status, but they can start the process and see the benefits as they evolve through the Disability Confident Committed and Disability Confident Employer stages of the scheme.
Not just a moral issue
I am confident that Disability Confident will successfully engage these new markets, because employers of all sizes are waking up to the achievable benefits of an inclusive approach. It’s not just a moral issue; supporting disabled people also makes good business sense. By removing the barriers facing disabled people looking for work, employers can open their doors to new talent and increase employee retention.
There is a growing expectation on brands to act in an ethical way. Failure to do so can impact brand reputation and adversely affect sales. Organisations that demonstrate their support for disabled people by signing up to become Disability Confident can increase their brand value and encourage loyalty among their customer and client base.
Recruiting and retaining disabled people can benefit the financial bottom line. Penny Mordaunt, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work, recently highlighted research that shows 92% of consumers think more favourably of businesses that hire disabled people and 87% would prefer to give their custom to these companies.
The Disability Confident scheme enables employers to identify the most effective ways to proactively support their disabled employees, which can in turn reduce absenteeism and result in an improvement in productivity. In the future, being Disability Confident may even become a supplier requirement for procurement.
Taking the First Steps
Organisations looking to benefit from all the talents and skills disabled people can bring should consider these three steps:
1. Think wider about disability
Mental health issues are often overlooked as they are the hidden side of disability, but 70 million days are lost from work each year due to mental ill health, making it the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK. Organisations need to be proactive in supporting their line managers to identify and respond effectively to signs of mental health problems among their employees, to prevent them becoming acute.
Some practical things that can help are hosting lunch and learn sessions that promote open discussions about mental health, or organising Disability Confident workshops for employees that address the myths, fears and misconceptions around all disabilities, encouraging managers to say “yes” to disabled talent as well as influencing and developing inclusive cultural change.
2. Develop an inclusive recruitment process
It’s important employers are open-minded about job applicants and don’t unintentionally discount candidates with a disability, out of ignorance or fear.
Organisations should review their end to end recruitment process, to ensure there are no barriers that would stop candidates with a disability from applying and succeeding – whether that’s a failure to advertise in the appropriate places or an interview venue that isn’t accessible.
3. Introduce a ‘personal passport’
This is a voluntary and confidential form kept by the employee to capture any information they consider will support them in their daily work activities, including workplace adjustments they may require.
It enables an easier conversation about the nature of the support the employee requires, and the individual can give permission for the passport to be shared with others who may need to know, so they don’t have to repeatedly discuss the same issues.
The Disability Confident scheme continues to go from strength to strength, and is a way for employers to demonstrate their commitment to supporting people with disabilities in the workplace. Signing up is straightforward, and Disability Confident Leaders such as AdviserPlus are always happy to share their experience of progressing to the highest level of Disability Confidence.