When will we get serious about attracting disabled talent?

When I took up my role as government Disability and Access Ambassador for the recruitment industry, I said we had an unparalleled opportunity to deliver authentic disability inclusion and equity. And I meant it. Ensuring that employers can attract and empower the wealth of disabled talent the UK has to offer is pivotal to our economic success.

Research shows that above all other challenges, disabled people cite recruiters’ lack of knowledge and awareness as the main issue. So, I am laser focused on the need for education, so that well-intentioned recruiters become disability-confident recruiters.

Think about it like this: there are 1.1 million job vacancies in the UK. If you’re not recruiting from the pool of 1 million disabled people willing and able to work, you are likely to be finding it harder than most.

Disability in the workplace:

Ignorance causing employers to miss out on UK's disabled talent

Companies underestimating disabled workers' potential

How to make work more accessible for disabled employees

A recruitment community, confident and capable of attracting disabled talent is essential. And there is some brilliant work being done.

RIDI was set up to encourage and inspire the sector to become disability confident. And the RIDI Awards, which celebrate progress on disability inclusion in recruitment, saw a record number of entries in 2022 – over 100 – from organisations leading the way in diversity and inclusion.

At the Winners Showcase we’re hosting on 26 April, Virgin Atlantic Airways, the Civil Service Fast Stream and Emerging Talent team, Recite Me and SIC (Sick in the City) will share how they have put disabled people at the heart of what they do.

So, what can we learn from the award winners?

Be bold and don’t be afraid of big change

Following the pandemic, Virgin Atlantic Airways set out to hire over 500 new cabin crew, which required a complete overhaul of its recruitment process. As a result of the first campaign, 50 people with disclosed disabilities were successfully offered roles.

Get your policies, resources and support in place, with disabled people at the heart

SIC (Sick in the City) won the Disability Specialist Award for its e-learning and development platform – with videos, guides, templates and online events – so everyone can learn from disabled experts. It’s great to see the new initiative making an impact already.

Aim for best in class

The Civil Service Fast Stream and Emerging Talent team was named Inclusive Recruiter of the Year. Its practices show what can be achieved when you aim high.

It has delivered outstanding disability representation of appointed graduates (at over 20%), expanded its autism exchange internship programme and diversity summer internship (30% of whom are disabled). Its disabled groups continue to outperform non-disabled groups in terms of Fast Stream appointments.

Tailor everything you do to the individual

Recite Me took home the assistive technology prize and was recognised for its toolbar that enables job candidates to customise their online experience and take in information in a way that works best for them, at every stage of the hiring process.

What still needs to change?  

Well, for all these great examples, we still have a long way to go when it comes to attracting disabled talent. I want to see more senior HR professionals educate themselves and become change-makers in their organisations. We need to get serious about our commitment to recruit and retain disabled talent.

Become a Pioneer for disability inclusion, join the RIDI community by visiting https://ridi.org.uk/ridi-pioneers-members/

Kate Headley is chair of the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI), executive director of The Clear Company and the UK government disability and access ambassador for the recruitment industry