The House of Commons Library reports that 4.09 million working-age people with disabilities were economically inactive between January to March. This is an increase of 273,000 from the year before.
With labour shortages across UK industries, helping people living with disabilities find work could boost the economy. The Government has pledged £2.5 billion under the 'Back to Work' scheme to support this initiative. But as culture change consultants, we understand that finance alone is not the answer to solving the high unemployment rates amongst people with disabilities.
Workers with disabilities face multiple barriers. Only around half receive a job interview. This is despite them making 60% more applications than non-disabled people. If they find a job, they must contend with poor accessibility. For instance, a growing number of companies are cutting back on remote work, often essential for employees with disabilities.
Another barrier is negative bias and stigma. Preconceptions about capabilities and potential can lead to discrimination and poor inclusion . Although it is against the law to discriminate against someone with a disability, research shows that 8% of people with a disability reported being bullied, harassed, excluded or singled out during the pandemic.
To prove that negative bias and stigma are unfounded, here are five statistics on the benefits of hiring workers with disabilities.
1. They exceed expectations
A survey commissioned by Hilton Hotel earlier this year found 89% of employers who hired people with a learning disability said that person or people exceeded or met expectations. Having seen the benefits first-hand, the company hopes to empower more businesses to utilise this talent.
2. Increase in profit margins
Accenture conducted a study in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities. They found profit margins are 30% higher and net income is 200% higher for companies invested in hiring employees who are disabled.
3. More motivated to work
Research indicates that employees with disabilities are more motivated than the average worker. One theory is that they appreciate the opportunity to work, considering how difficult this can be, and perform above expectations.
4. Higher retention rates
According to the HR Director, people with learning disabilities are 3.5 times more likely than non-disabled co-workers to stay in their jobs. They also have a lower-than-average sickness rate.
5. They create a unique talent pool
A Harvard Business Review podcast with Luisa Alemany, a professor at London Business School, discusses how research shows that people living with disabilities possess unique, invaluable skills. Companies such as Microsoft Business say employees with disabilities are pivotal to many of their innovations.
In addition to being able to see things from a different perspective, hiring people with disabilities can create a more inviting workplace culture and boosts creativity. Alemany highlighted how seeing workers with disabilities can de-stigmatize their disabilities and encourage others to use your business.
We must also mention the numerous research and data that proves inclusion is fundamental to capturing new markets, increasing creativity and performance, as well as boosting workplace culture and employee satisfaction.
What can leaders do to champion people living with disabilities in the workplace?
Remove fear — We often fear 'difference'. Our experience shows that the less diverse a company is, the greater the likelihood that fear will be systemic. Individuals may be concerned about saying the wrong thing or feeling uncomfortable in the presence of someone with a disability. They may not have met a person with disabilities before.
You can help overcome fear by providing resources, keynote talks, and arranging for a facilitator to lead open and honest conversations. A facilitator ensures a meeting is safe, non-judgmental, and that everyone is heard.
Create and demonstrate inclusive values — Empower and support people with disabilities throughout the business. This includes making accessible technology, continually researching ways to improve methods, and analysing how to improve hiring and work culture to provide equal opportunities.
To champion inclusive values, examine your business from every angle. Hold your company accountable and address blind spots and disability areas that are not given the same recognition or attention.
Become a champion — Change starts at the top. Without the encouragement and support of senior leaders, change initiatives are less likely to succeed. While verbally showing your support is beneficial, it is also about action.
How much time have you allocated to disability inclusion? Have you funded training? How actively do you participate in education and learning? How often do you listen to people with disabilities to understand their perspective? The more you commit and make a real effort, the more others in your organisation will take note. Disability can then become a real value and not a tick-box exercise.
Address biases — Professor Lucy Delap published a study in the journal Social History of Medicine. The study highlights how workers with learning disabilities in the 20th century worked in various manufacturing, agriculture, domestic service, and local authority jobs. While employment back then would have been discriminatory and unfair, research shows that people with learning difficulties can thrive in a range of roles.
It is our responsibility to acknowledge and adjust our biases, so everyone has equality. It benefits both individuals with disability and organisations as a whole.
For further ideas and training possibilities, please contact us via the form below.