Understanding and improving disability recruitment practices

In March we released our Disability Package. This is a comprehensive resource that aims to guide employers on embedding best practice support for disabled employees across a number of considerations. If you are a member you can access this by logging into your account. Here, our Inclusion and Diversity Consultant, Naz Mir highlights concerns over the reality of disability recruitment and shares advice for improving your approach to it.

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Disability employment – the reality

A common concern impacting disability in the workplace across all disabilities and impairments is the topic of disability inclusion within recruitment. This is a concern I have seen far too regularly from our members in my role here at Inclusive Employers.

The statistics are shocking and when I share them in sessions with our members, they agree. Last month an Office of National Statistics (ONS) release highlighted that only 52% of disabled people aged 16-64 were in any form of paid employment in the UK. This statistic is significantly lower than the 81% of non-disabled people. The issue doesn’t start there. At an education level we’re seeing lower numbers of disabled people completing university education or any qualifications, in comparison to their non-disabled counterparts. And yet, many of you reading this will have some form of Inclusion & Diversity plan or strategy in place to welcome everyone. So, why is there this gap? What can organisations do to support employees with disabilities and impairments when they come into the workplace?

Embedding the social model of disability

Societies traditionally uphold the medical model of disability. This places emphasis on the disability or impairment itself. It says that it is something that needs ‘fixing’ and something that leads to differences in groups, ultimately, exclusion. We need to change the focus to the social model of disability. This realises and understands that any barriers faced by disabled people are not as a result of their disability or impairment, but instead are a condition of how our society is not set up to support different groups of people. It is our failure, not theirs.

Disability inclusion benefits everyone, if you design using inclusion, embedding it in to the very start, it creates best practice across all needs.

How can you improve disability recruitment?

Recruitment is a very broad process, prone to bias, time constraints and lack of resources. We sometimes recruit in a hurry, when we need to fill a gap and we need to have results yesterday. This reactive approach to hiring is unlikely to include a group of people who have been somewhat forgotten up until now.

So, what can we do as organisations to improve disability recruitment?

1. Build the case to fill a gap

Disability and neurodiversity is massively underrepresented in the workplace. We understand neurodiversity to be a real competitive advantage for organisations, bringing skills and capabilities that others don’t have. (There’s a reason technology companies have begun creating Autism development programmes). By ignoring the potential of these communities we are losing out on lived experiences and a different perspective that we currently don’t have.

2. Cast a wider net

Look at where you are attracting talent – can you broaden this pool? Look locally, look at specific job boards and support groups. Ensure your website, job descriptions and your online presence is accessible for different needs.

3. Real reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments need to be timely, centralised, clear and the expectation should not be on disabled people. Be very clear on what reasonable adjustments are available, as this can put peoples minds at ease. For example, if an employee is made aware of this: “If you have reasonable adjustment requirements, please let us know”, make sure they are not just words on a piece of paper, ensure it is a commitment that is kept. Always ask the candidate what they need – they are the experts. But it is also important that you are prepared with a  list of things that may help.

4. Flip the script on traditional interviews

Interviews are great, but how we approach them needs to change. We place too much importance on the things that just aren’t important: are they maintaining eye contact? Are they eloquent? I wonder if they had the same lecturer as me at university?

Interviews can be high stress situations for people, so give some consideration to what might help the applicant: Do you need to offer more time? Are they clear on expectations, the outline and questions ahead of the interview? Are you giving them feedback in an appropriate amount of time?

5. Broaden your understanding of disability

Typical representation of disabled people tends to be wheelchair users. There are so many different types of disabilities and impairments that all require different levels of support, including and beyond wheelchair users. Candidates needs for the interview processes will vary from person to person. Whether we are HR, hiring managers or recruiters, the more we understand about the different types of adjustments that are available, the more likely we are to create a great candidate experience for disabled people.

6. Show people that they belong and can be successful in your business

I’ve had lots of conversations with neurodiverse employees who have said:

“I knew this place is where I wanted to work from the moment I read the job description because of the language in it”.

Disability representation and inclusion doesn’t have to mean pictures of wheelchair users on your website. It’s about the whole message, from your terminology and language to your processes.

In order to amplify voices of those with lived experiences, we first need to get them through the door. It’s time to close the disability employment gap and we all have a role in making that a reality.

For members, please click here to download our Disability Package. To find out more on how we can support your disability inclusion work and training please contact [email protected]. You can also find out more about our Autism Awareness webinar, on 7 April, by clicking here.