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Recruitment processes failing disabled people

People with disabilities face closed attitudes and discrimination when applying for jobs, research suggests

Marking the launch of a new three-year campaign aimed at breaking down the barriers disabled people face when seeking employment, disability charity Scope – in partnership with Virgin Media – has released findings that show disabled people have to apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people to secure a role. Furthermore only 50% of applications result in interviews, compared to 69% for applicants without disabilities.

The online survey of 2,000 disabled and 2,002 non-disabled people was commissioned by Scope and Virgin Media as part of their new ‘Work With Me’ initiative that aims to help one million disabled people in the UK find work by 2020.

According to ONS figures collated in the first quarter of 2017, one million disabled people in the UK were capable of and actively seeking work but were unable to find a job.

As part of the campaign Virgin Media has funded a new digital employment service for Scope that will provide essential employment information to disabled people. The campaign partners are urging the public, employers and the government to work harder to remove stigma and improve job prospects for disabled people.

Scope CEO Mark Atkinson said there was a huge amount of work to do to tackle the disability employment gap. The government, he said, was on course to fail on its pledge to get a million more disabled people into work.

“Disabled people with all the skills to do the job are being repeatedly passed over for roles, while others are being forced to apply for jobs that they know they are overqualified for,” Atkinson said. “Employers are missing out on the talent they badly need because they don’t have the right support in place or because of outdated attitudes towards disability.”

“The bottom line is there are one million disabled people in the UK who want to and are able to work but remain unemployed. From a commercial HR point of view that’s untapped talent,” Virgin Media chief people officer Catherine Lynch told HR magazine.

“Recruitment is one part of the puzzle here, but it’s definitely not the full picture. Disabled people need more support than they have today to get into and stay in work and in the employee experience, which many of us as HR professionals lead on,” she added.

Other findings from the study revealed that 37% of respondents felt employers would overlook them because of their condition or impairment, with 40% feeling they were unlikely to find work in the next six months. Of those, 38% felt they’d be seen as a risky hire. Furthermore 53% of disabled people surveyed said they had applied for jobs despite being overqualified for the position because of the bias they face.

Virgin Media has worked with Scope since 2015 to develop digital solutions for disabled people; the technology firm has undergone its own internal review of workplace policies and practices. It has since implemented manager training on supporting disabled colleagues, improved access to buildings, increased staff training on supporting disabled customers and developed accessibility features for all new products and services.

“While our focus is on supporting disabled people, we’ve come to realise our philosophy should be no different than it is with any other member of the team,” said Lynch. “At Virgin Media we’ve confronted some of the hard truths about what this means and it’s going to take time, care and commitment to get this right.”

Lynch said it was not just a matter of creating accessibility in the workplace but also about having an accessible attitude as an employer, line manager, employee and colleague. “In the workplace it’s down to all of us to be a leader and put inclusion at the heart of everything we do. I’d say to everyone in an HR role, we have a big opportunity to drive change at work, in life and in society.”