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Disabled staff can improve wellbeing, claims M&S HRD

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Marks and Spencer's (M&S), HR director, Tanith Dodge (pictured) claims businesses that employ disabled staff can help improve wellbeing among existing employees. Speaking yesterday at the launch in Castle Donington of a scheme for people with disabilities to support an inclusive workforce, Dodge also said she wants to help disabled people “overcome barriers that stop them finding meaningful work”.

The M&S employability scheme for people with disabilities and health conditions called Plan A, will be used in its recruitment drive.

As part of this initiative M&S created a "buddy scheme". When someone joins the company they are assigned a buddy, who will work closely with them and mentor them. And it's this that's helping increase the motivation and wellbeing among staff, says Dodge: "In a recent survey we did, 99% of people who were a buddy felt more motivated when they came to work because they were working alongside someone and coaching them. Over 50% felt they had developed existing skills and 84% thought they had learnt fresh skills including mentoring, leading and coaching."

She added: "Because of this scheme, 98% said it made M&S a better place to work."

It was also important to Dodge that the number of disabled staff it employed wasn't controlled. She told HR magazine: "We spent a lot of time talking about how we would measure it and we decided it would not be quota-led.

"If we get 50 disabled staff then great - 500 even better."

At the launch, in M&S' logistics distribution in Castle Donington, there was also a call to encourage people with a disability to move into senior positions. Director of Employment Services at disabled employers Remploy, Beth Carruthers, told HR magazine: "I think by working closely with companies and keeping the employee engaged there should be no reason why they can't reach the highest levels and have the same opportunity as everyone else."

She added: "There have been some managers and directors who have become disabled later on in life and quickly realised they still have the skills and ability to do the job and their disability doesn't affect them."

Speaking at the launch, the minister for disabled people, Esther McVey, stated that there is a role for Government to play in helping disabled people into work: "It's a major priority of mine to get more disabled people into mainstream jobs."

She added: "Although the employment rate of disabled people has improved over the past few years, around half of them are still not in work, and it's something this Government is committed to changing."

The scheme will be used to recruit people into new roles, including: warehouse operatives, engineers, mechanics and management. Dodge thinks a disabled employee has a lot to offer: "They are some of the most motivated, dedicated, loyal and enthusiastic employees around, because they appreciate the chance they have been given."

M&S Plan A scheme is to be implemented in its recruiting for over 100 roles for disabled employees at its distribution centre in Castle Donington, due to open in early 2013.