The Government is being urged to do more to help people with disabilities secure jobs after new research revealed that one in 10 businesses felt unable to support an employee with a disability or long-term health condition.
A survey carried out by employment specialist Reed in Partnership and charity Disability Rights UK highlighted the challenges faced by disabled job seekers and employers.
It found that the vast majority of employers (84 per cent) believed disabled people made a valuable contribution to the workplace yet more than one in 10 (12 per cent) worried that they were more likely to take time off and a similar number felt they were ill-equipped to support disabled staff.
The poll of 300 recruitment, HR and management staff also found that while they were keen to employ people with disabilities the perceived cost of adapting equipment and facilities to accommodate them was a concern.
One in five employers said that the cost of modifying equipment made it expensive to employ disabled people, and almost half (49 per cent) said that additional funding for adaptations would help businesses to retain disabled people in employment.
Such costs are one area where the report says the Government could do more to help businesses and it warns that unless action is taken the Government’s commitment to halving the disability employment gap – the difference between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people – is at risk.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “With one in six of the population living with a health condition or impairment, employers are missing out on a huge number of talented people if they don’t recruit and retain disabled people. Disability and health issues are part of being human: we all need to accommodate difference.
“Disabled people also often bring assets like problem-solving, empathy and resilience to the workplace because of the challenges they have faced.
“We want to see employers work to create cultures in which people living with impairments or health conditions feel more confident to be open about what they need at work. We would also encourage senior colleagues who themselves live with health conditions or impairments to be open about their experiences and show that disability and health issues are an ordinary part of working life.”
The Disability and Employment report makes several recommendations to improve the employment situation for people with disabilities. These include the Government expanding its scheme to support business with the costs of adjustments, Access to Work, and increases publicity of the scheme; the introduction of a ‘one-stop-shop’ to offer help and workplace solutions for people with disabilities and their employers; encouraging and incentivise employers to provide training in disability confidence to their line managers; and helping employers create cultures in which people living with impairments feel more confident to be open about what they need at work.
Managing director of Reed in Partnership, Martin Fallon, added: “Everyone deserves to be able to participate equally. That is why it is concerning that one in 10 people in business told us their organisation wouldn’t be able to support someone with a disability.
“Disabled people are nearly four times as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people. Increasing the number of disabled people in employment must be a national priority.
“I’m really proud of the work Reed in Partnership does to help people with disabilities and health conditions get back to work. Our Employment Advisers provide tailored support to enable disabled people to move into sustainable jobs. We see first-hand the huge boost in confidence and self-esteem in someone who has been unemployed for a long time getting a job.”