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

Almost half (47%) of businesses think there are not enough candidates with disabilities to successfully maintain a diverse hiring policy, according to research released today (3 January) by disability inclusion business group The Valuable 500.

This figure comes despite the fact that government statistics show there are one million disabled people in the UK who are both willing and able to work.

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Research by Virgin Media and Scope revealed that before the pandemic when disabled people applied for jobs, only half of their applications (50%) resulted in interview, compared with seven out of 10 (69%) for non-disabled applicants.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of the non-profit Business Disability Forum, told HR magazine that employers need to review their recruitment practices.

She said: “Employers need to think about how and where they advertise roles.

“Simply saying that you welcome applications from disabled people is not enough. Any recruitment platforms need to be accessible and work with assistive technology."

Lightfoot also recommended employers think about how they describe a role and set out eligibility criteria.

“Are you putting off candidates who may have less formal experience?” she asked. 

“Are you using any AI systems that automatically reject candidates with gaps in their employment history?”

Diversity and inclusion consultant Toby Mildon said that the onus is on employers to demonstrate their credentials as disability-friendly employers.

He said: “Otherwise disabled people will not apply for fear of their applications being rejected, or joining an organisation they feel they do not belong in.

“Unless employers become more attractive places to work, there is a huge opportunity cost associated with not hiring such diverse and experienced talent.”

Almost two thirds (63%) of businesses did not know how many people in their organisation identify as disabled, and even fewer (58%) had a policy in place that actively addresses disability inclusion.

Mildon said: “To be able to ensure that their business reflects the diverse community and customers they serve, it’s very important for employers to understand the diversity and demographic composition of their organisation.”

A way to measure inclusivity, he added, is essential to drive action. 

He said: “The goal is to identify barriers that prevent all employees from flourishing and performing at their best.”

Lightfoot added that a crucial element of inclusivity is workplace culture.

She said: “Are they creating environments where people feel safe and able to share about their disability or long-term condition? Are they using the right language?”

Many people, for example, might not identify with the term ‘disabled’.

“Too often,” she added, “we use negative terms, such as ‘declare’ or ‘disclose’ when we talk about disability.

“What we really should be saying is ‘is there anything we can do to help you be as productive as possible in your role?’ And we should be saying this to all employees, not just those who have identified as disabled.”


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