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New disability guidance for managers

"“This report has the potential to move the dial in the right direction for disability inclusion at work," said the founder of Inclusive Companies

The government has jointly published its updated Disability Confident guide, to help managers support disabled people at work.

The Department for Work and Pensions partnered with the CIPD on this guidance, which was published yesterday.

The guidance aims to provide support for managers in recruiting, retaining and fostering the progression of employees with a disability or a long-term health condition, which includes people with long Covid, mental health conditions, learning difficulties, neurodiversity and visual and sensory impairments.

Mims Davies MP, minister for disabled people, health and work, told HR magazine that the guidance was part of the government’s commitment to ensure that work is accessible for people with disabilities.

She said: “We want to help everyone realise their potential. It’s fantastic to have helped over a million more disabled people into work, hitting that target five years early – but we’re not stopping there.

“This new guidance is a really useful tool for managers that will support even more people to progress, whatever their condition and whatever their profession.

“It’s just the latest step in our mission to ensure the UK is the most accessible place in the world for disabled people to live, work and thrive.”

Earlier this year the government was criticised for excluding the workplace experiences of disabled people from its Disability Action Plan.

Read more: Disability Action Plan should offer more workplace support, say specialists

The new guidance details how businesses can attract a wide range of applicants and onboard new employees with a disability, as well as how managers should deal with confidentiality around disabilities, and the support that can be offered to help with career progression.

It contains information on managers’ legal responsibilities to support people with a disability or long-term health condition at work, as well as what language to use in relation to, and when speaking to, people with a disability.

The guidance also explains how managers can make and review reasonable adjustments and consider flexible working, while also dealing with sickness absence effectively.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, explained that support for managers to be more inclusive of people with disabilities is vital for progressing accessibility at work.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Helping organisations and managers to be more inclusive and understand how to best support people with disabilities is vital in creating more opportunities for people to work.”

He noted that he hoped the guidance would improve managers’ confidence when managing people with disabilities.

Cheese added: “CIPD research found that the knowledge and confidence of managers is the most common challenge organisations face when managing people with a disability or long-term health condition.

“That’s why the CIPD has worked in partnership to update this guide.”

Toby Mildon, founder of diversity and inclusion consultancy Mildon, commented that the guidance provided practical advice for managers.

He told HR magazine: “It is really great to see such a practical guide to recruiting disabled people and creating an inclusive and accessible work environment. The report provides really practical advice, which covers the entire employee lifecycle. 

“Yes, it's important to attract and recruit disabled candidates but many employers overlook the need to develop disabled colleagues and invest in line manager confidence

“This report provides a holistic overview to creating an accessible workplace for disabled people.”

Read more: Government releases report to tackle barriers autistic people face at work 

This year the government has also released the Buckland Review, which identified barriers autistic people experience at work, and launched the Lilac Review to look into the challenges facing disabled entrepreneurs.

Paul Sesay, CEO and founder of Inclusive Companies, added that, for the report to further disability inclusion at work, employers should commit to improving accessibility at all levels of their organisation.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “The Disability Confident guide does well to recognise employers face a fair few challenges and barriers. 

“This report most certainly has the potential to move the dial in the right direction for disability inclusion at work. But first we need commitment from companies to change their culture by investing in workplace adjustments to make the space fully accessible. 

“It’s important to improve representation at middle, senior and board level because, as with all strands of diversity in the workplace, representation is every bit as important as inclusion.”

Sesay noted that a Disability Confident certificate would help employers signal this commitment. The accreditation is part of a government scheme to encourage businesses to signpost their inclusivity in recruiting, retaining and developing disabled talent.

He added: “Having a Disability Confident certificate and badge should work well to show the outside world an employer is inclusive. That, in turn, will help to attract and retain more disabled people into the organisation which, over time, will change the culture."