Improving Employment Accessibility

All too often in business, as in society, there is still a negative image of, or tendency to shy away from, those with disabilities. However, it is currently estimated that around 20% of the UK, working-age population have some form of disability or long-term health condition. Therefore, when it comes to recruitment, by not providing truly accessible employment opportunities, businesses are missing out on a huge range of high-quality applicants with a diverse range of skills and experiences.

What are the advantages of an inclusive workforce?

Due to the unfortunate reality of having fewer employment opportunities, workers with disabilities are often more positive, hard working, and are statistically likely to stay longer in a role (meaning you’re less likely to have to spend money and time recruiting again in 18 months). Additionally, disabled workers may bring soft or practical skills to the company, such as the ability to be more empathetic or the knowledge of British Sign Language, which could bridge skill gaps and foster better employee/client relationships, possibly even saving the company money in the future.

When touching on financial implications, it is worth discussing that many companies believe having an employee who is disabled will result in additional costs they cannot afford. However, making reasonable adjustments to allow for accessibility is often very low in cost or even no cost at all. Particularly, when considering that 8/10 people with disabilities acquire them whilst of working age, it is usually far more cost effective to support a staff member who has recently become disabled, and therefore retain valuable skills and experience, than to waste time and money recruiting and having to train a new staff member.

Additionally, the dedication to and care for staff displayed by the effort to understand and support a newly disabled staff member, shows the value a company places on its employees and its commitment to treating everyone fairly. This promotion of inclusiveness, along with the usually positive, loyal, and hard-working nature of disabled employees, can help boost morale across the team and improve company culture. A diverse workforce can also positively affect staff interactions with customers by accurately reflecting a company’s customer base and the community in which they conduct their business.

Are you as inclusive as you think?

Many businesses may consider themselves inclusive as they include the standard application questions regarding whether any accommodations need to be made for varying needs. However, in reality there is far more they could be doing to make their recruitment truly accessible.

As a minimum, when advertising the position, they should ensure websites or marketing materials meet accessibility standards, such as ensuring that videos have subtitles or written material is offered in large print format.

Companies may want to specifically emphasise within a job advert that disabled applicants are welcome or encouraged. Better still, they can additionally choose to advertise vacancies through services that specialise in inclusive hiring.

Often, people living with disabilities are used to thinking of alternative ways to complete tasks but still may be put off if they believe they cannot meet the specific ‘must haves’ of a job specification. Therefore, showing flexibility within listings can also increase accessibility. It may be useful to avoid being overly focused on specific tasks or duties and instead list general strengths or goals for applicants to compare against their skillset when applying. It is vital when creating an accessible job advert to consider what is truly essential to the role and whether it can be performed in any other fashion, before creating a list of inflexible requirements.

Once applications have been received, it must be ensured that the interview process is also adaptive. Businesses should offer alternative methods of communication, as some candidates may prefer to conduct interviews over the phone or via video call instead of in person.

Companies may also wish to introduce various elements to their interview process to ensure all candidates can truly display their abilities. This could include task-based assessments that would allow someone who struggles to explain their strengths and weaknesses, or to understand hypothetical situations, to instead display their skillset. Alternatively, someone who may find the pressurised interaction of a panel interview difficult may be provided the option of completing written answers.

Finally, whilst companies should endeavour to discuss any reasonable adjustments required for an interview well in advance, any accommodations necessary for the candidate to carry out their duties during employment, should not be considered in the context of their suitability for the position, before or during the interview. These should only be discussed if/when an offer has been accepted by the successful candidate.

If you’d like to find out more about how to increase the accessibility of your recruitment process and ensure your practices adhere to the legal requirements for recruitment contained in the Equality Act 2010, please get in touch with our HR partners, Insurance HR Solutions on 01604 709509 or email HRhelp@ihrsolutions.co.uk. The team will ensure that you do not breach discrimination laws and that your processes are fit for purpose.

About the author

Chloe joined us in 2020, having graduated with a 2:1 in Graphic Communication at the University of South Wales. Chloe assists in the design and content creation of new e-learning modules as well as the re-branding of existing courses.

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