Businesses have been urged to report on the numbers of disabled people they employ, in what will seen by many as a precursor to mandatory reporting on the topic.
The government has released a voluntary framework to help employers disclose the percentage of their workforce that has a disability or a long-term physical or mental health issue. It also encourages employers to “provide a narrative” explaining what actions they are taking to help recruit and retain disabled people.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which published the two-page guide, said the framework would support employers in taking the first step on the journey towards greater transparency on the issue.
Although aimed at larger firms employing more than 250 people, the government hopes it can be used by smaller companies.
Sarah Newton, minister for disabled people, health and work, urged employers to take part in the framework to drive diversity and inclusivity in their businesses. “Our voluntary reporting framework builds on our long-standing commitment to companies to help them in supporting their staff at all levels to create more inclusive workforces,” she said.
The framework was developed in partnership with a number of large employers and charities. It was created in response to a recommendation in the 2017 Thriving at Work review that employers should report more on actions they are taking on mental health in the workplace.
Earlier this year, an Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report revealed more than half (52 per cent) of UK employers reported barriers when collecting data on disability, and just 3 per cent of those surveyed collected and analysed disability pay gap data. It called for disability and ethnicity pay gaps to be made a legal requirement for employers with more than 250 employees by 2020.
The framework was welcomed by Anna Bird, director of policy and research for national disability charity SCOPE, who said collecting such data was crucial for employers to understand what actions were needed to recruit and retain disabled people. “This is a watershed moment – we will only be able to tackle disability unemployment if we understand the scale of the problem,” she said.
She added: “The government must ensure that this information shapes future approaches to increasing disability employment.”
Denise Keating, chief executive for Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion, agreed, telling People Management the success of data gathering would “rely on the actions taken following its collection”.
Keating said she saw the framework as a “first step” towards organisations reporting their disability pay gap.
A spokesperson for the Shaw Trust also welcomed the framework, but urged for reporting to become mandatory, and said the Equality Act should be strengthened to better protect employees with disabilities or mental health problems.
Separately, the CIPD and Disability Confident campaign published a good practice guide for line managers to support disabled staff and those with mental health conditions last week, providing advice for employers on recruiting, retaining and developing employees with a disability or health condition.
The guidance focuses on the role of line managers in workplace adjustments, language and behaviour and sickness absence, and provides guidance on recruiting, retaining and developing employees with a disability or health condition.
Claire McCartney, diversity and inclusion adviser for the CIPD, said organisations need to ensure line managers are appropriately trained. “Disability awareness training on its own is not enough,” she said. “Line managers need to know how to navigate conversations about disability and conditions with employees and understand what they need to do in order to arrange and implement adjustments.”