Number of Disability Confident job adverts rises by 1,000 per cent, but experts say improvement is still needed

Although flagship government scheme is seemingly improving access to work for disabled people, industry figures say more is required for true inclusion

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The number of job roles advertised by Disability Confident employers has increased by 1,100 per cent in five years, but only two in five disabled workers believe good opportunities exist, new data has shown.

Although the analysis, by job site Indeed, highlighted an apparent rise in confidence among UK employers in their own ability to recruit and develop the careers of people with disabilities, three in five (58 per cent) disabled candidates still think finding a job is harder for them than others.

In fact, only half (52 per cent) of disabled survey respondents to the survey felt they could reach their full potential at work. 

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Joseph Williams, CEO of inclusivity recruitment firm Clu, explained that to improve outcomes for candidates with disabilities, businesses needed to get past pledges and start to engage with disabled candidates in a truly meaningful way.

He said: “Campaigns like Disability Confident start from a place of good intent, but the disabled community knows that organisations don’t actually need to do anything to achieve a badge, so they become meaningless and rarely result in increased attraction or trust.

“If you want to improve trust and attraction with diverse communities, start by speaking with them to understand barriers and then act. Architect your processes with access in mind. Make your spaces safe and improve usability across the employee lifecycle. Clearly state the access options you offer against each role you promote.”

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Williams also stated that systems and processes needed to change to meet disabled people's requirements, including consideration of posting job adverts on more accessible, neuro-inclusive websites and platforms.

Chris Jay, managing director of training provider Bascule Disability, agreed, adding that the focus needed to be on evolving culture and practices to get better outcomes and change perception regarding how accessible an employer is. “Organisations must lose the ‘tick box’ mentality and the one-dimensional approach of simply following policy,” he said.

“This will raise general awareness and understanding of disability from the top down. Every business is only as strong as its weakest link, so inclusive practice should be a consideration for all departments.”

To do this successfully, Jay said recruitment processes should be abetted by knowledge gained from working with incumbent staff with disabilities, case studies should be used, and advertisements should be accessible. 

Further to this, Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, explained that organisations shouldn’t just be focusing on improving recruitment. Instead, she said they should want to ensure that belonging and inclusion were practised throughout every part of the business. “Being able to see ‘someone like me’ not just in recruitment materials but visibly

throughout the organisation is key to giving candidates the confidence to ask for the support that they need, whether that is adjustments during the recruitment process or once appointed,” she said.

“Too often supportive recruitment materials are not backed up by wider organisational messaging and language that can then undermine positive recruitment initiatives.

“This is why a ‘whole organisation’ approach to enhancing the experience of disabled employees (or any employee) is so important. Joining up policies, language, processes and communications across every area of an organisation is vital.” 

However, Lutfur Ali, senior policy adviser at the CIPD, said the scheme should only act as a starting point: “[Employers need to] change people’s perception that it’s not just a ‘tick box’ exercise. Delivering measurable disability equality of outcomes and impact requires employers to lead by example where disability inclusion is integrated into everything the organisation does.”

The Disability Confident Scheme was launched by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in November 2016 and aims to give employers the techniques, skills and confidence they need to recruit, retain and develop people with disabilities and long-term health conditions. 

Around 19,000 employers have signed up to the scheme so far, with DWP analysis showing that almost half (49 per cent) of scheme members had recruited at least one person with a disability, long-term health or mental health condition as a result of the scheme.