In the UK, 18% of working age adults have a disability but less than half (47%) of these people are in employment, compared to 84% of non-disabled people. Clearly this is an issue that needs addressing.
The Government’s Disability Confident Scheme provides a great starting point. It helps firms assess their current performance in this area and learn from others on how to improve so they can create a diverse and inclusive workforce. Disability Confident has three levels – Committed, Employer and Leader – and is designed to challenge attitudes, remove barriers and ensure disabled people can get into employment – and stay there.
One of the key things businesses can do to retain employees and boost business performance is make reasonable adjustments in the workplace. These adjustments, which are required under equality law, provide support for people with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, so they can be more easily integrated into the workplace. Done well, they also help reduce the stigma surrounding disability.
However, it’s a common misconception that making workplace adjustments is costly for businesses. In fact, making reasonable adjustments doesn’t have to cost the earth. The majority of workplace absences are related to mental ill-health, often a hidden disability, which doesn’t usually require any physical adjustments to be made. And even where employees do have a physical disability, the cost of making reasonable adjustments can be much lower than businesses might think.
Putting in place ‘personal passports’ is a helpful first step in making reasonable adjustments. These are voluntary and confidential forms kept by the employee to capture any information they believe will support them in their daily work activities, including any workplace adjustments they may need. It enables an easier conversation about the nature of the support they require, and the employee can even give permission for the passport to be shared, so they don’t have to repeatedly discuss the same issues, such as when they move to a new team.
A cost or benefit for your business?
If you compare the cost of creating and managing personal passports and making small adjustments to working practices with the cost of long term absences, it’s a win-win situation for both employer and employee. In contrast, not taking action can be a costly mistake.
Employers need to understand the variety of visible and invisible disabilities and how they can provide workplace adjustments to help all employees thrive at work. By signing up to the Disability Confident scheme, businesses can receive support to help them recruit and retain disabled people and create a more productive and successful business.
For more information about workplace adjustments, or the benefits of the Disability Confident scheme, connect with me on LinkedIn.