According to a report into the experience of disabled candidates seeking employment through recruitment agencies, by The Clear Company, 90% of recruiters believe they offer support to disabled candidates through the recruitment cycle, as compared to only 13% of candidates saying they receive such support when applying for positions.
Only 52% of disabled candidates will declare their disability when dealing with a recruitment agency and 74% of disabled candidates are reluctant to tell recruiters about their disability because they fear this would prejudice their chance of being offered work.
A quarter of all disabled candidates won't apply for a job through a recruitment agency because of a poor past experience and isabled candidates ranked recruitment agencies sixth as the route they choose to finding employment; behind internet job boards; company websites; newspaper advertisements; word of mouth; and Jobcentre Plus
Three quarters (75%) of disabled workers said they had encountered a lack of disability awareness among recruitment agency staff while 71% said they had encountered immediate negative assumptions when declaring a disability
Kate Headley, development director at The Clear Company, said: "It's encouraging to see leaders from the UK recruitment industry are stating their intent to include disabled people. But these findings tell us these good intentions are simply not good enough. The reality is that disabled people are experiencing unacceptable levels of poor treatment and discrimination resulting from a lack of recruiter knowledge, confidence and capability.
"There are many myths about disability that lead to the subject becoming the 'elephant in the room'. Unfortunately, this is leading to avoidance of the issue rather than support for the individual.
"But let's not point the finger too readily at those people at the front line of recruitment. Many recruiters simply don't know how to deal with disabled candidates because they have never been told. They lack knowledge and confidence, and they fear getting it wrong and causing offence and, sadly, many are just not aware what disability means.
"Knowledge and skills are relatively easy to acquire and to implement. It is up to the leadership of the industry to do more than tick a box that says you're doing it right. They have to provide support for the people dealing with disabled candidates to improve this appalling situation.
"We want agencies to start working more closely with their employer clients to give disabled candidates the same opportunities as other people.
"Recruiters and employers need to understand the potential impact on the employer's brand of getting this wrong. They also need education and support, along with access to expertise on disability matters like assistive technology, specific conditions and how to deal appropriately with people who are affected by them.
"It's not quantum physics, the tools are readily available. All that's needed is a genuine shift in attitude away from the tick the box approach we are seeing toward a genuinely inclusive one."
Emma Harvey, employment partner and head of the recruitment group at law firm DWF, added: " It frustrates me when people say there isn't a business case for accommodating inclusive practices into the recruitment process. There are 10 million people in the UK with a disability. Together they are a voice with the power to positively influence the perceptions of some of the biggest global brands.
"Although over 50% of recruiters believe they have a defined business case for adopting an inclusive approach to disabled candidates, the survey results indicate that sadly, despite good intentions, that isn't always reflected in practice.
"In the longer term, with the number of disabled people in the UK constantly growing, there is no question that recruitment agencies which fail to recognise the size of this challenge will lose out to their more enlightened competitors.
"We can already see that disabled people do not always think of agencies as their natural choice to find a job, preferring instead to respond directly to employer advertisements to avoid the perceived barriers in the recruitment process. This must change."