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Making the recruitment process inclusive for deaf employees

Five million people of working age in the UK are living with hearing loss or deafness and, while there are millions of deaf people who are willing and able to work, sadly, people with hearing loss continue to face barriers when applying for jobs.

In fact, almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents in a recent survey by NHS England felt their employment opportunities were limited because of their hearing loss.

This doesn’t need to be the case. There are steps HR leaders can take to ensure their recruitment processes provide deaf job applicants with the same opportunities as any other prospective employee. Here are some of the main things to consider.

Make job adverts clear

HR leaders can ensure they recruit from the largest talent pool and include those who have hearing loss from the very outset by making sure they advertise vacancies where people with hearing loss will see them, for example on disability recruitment sites like Deaf Jobs UK.

They should consider including an equal opportunities statement in their advert to let applicants know they champion equality in the workplace and will support those with disabilities to fulfil their potential. HR leaders can also sign up for the Disability Confident scheme and include the badge on their advert to demonstrate this commitment.

Simplify application processes

HR leaders may need to adjust the application process for people with hearing loss. To overcome this hurdle, they can use BSL interpretation tools to allow deaf applicants to answer the questions in BSL and send a recording of their responses instead.

To encourage more deaf people to apply for roles, they should clearly state on application forms that they offer accessible interviews at all stages if required; ensure application forms are in plain English and avoid jargon.

Understand the applicant’s requirements

Under the 2010 Equality Act, employers must provide reasonable adjustments to ensure deaf candidates are not put at a substantial disadvantage. Every deaf person is different, so HR managers should not make assumptions and should always ask what adjustments – if any – applicants need.

Prior to the interview, they should find out if a BSL interpreter or other type of communication support service is required to ensure they can be booked in advance. Such services do not come at a cost to the company if the individual is applying for a paid position and can be funded through the Access to Work (ATW) scheme.

Provide ongoing support

Upon making a job offer to a deaf applicant, HR leaders should make it clear that having hearing loss is okay and they will be fully supported.

They should use this period to discuss any necessary workplace adjustments with the new employee so they can be made before their first day. They should make sure they understand all duties and responsibilities they will be expected to fulfil as part of their role, so they can determine which adjustments and equipment they are going to need and can detail these in their application to ATW.

ATW funding will usually cover a mix of face to face and video interpretation, translation and note taking services for any deaf employee, and will allow them to pre-book a face to face or video interpreter on-demand to communicate instantly.

External interpretation providers can also be used to translate any written policies or information and training videos into a BSL video to make them accessible for the deaf employee.

With the right adjustments and employer support, hearing loss does not have to present a barrier in the job application process, nor in the workplace itself, for deaf employees. By giving them the support they need, and educating the entire workforce, businesses will profit from the diverse skills and talents many deaf people have to offer, and employees with hearing loss will benefit, too.

Clare Vale is managing director of Sign Solutions