Employers need to dispel the myth that disabled talent is ‘Hard to find’

Employers need to dispel the myth that disabled talent is ‘Hard to find’

There is a vast untapped pool of disabled talent looking to work and many people with disabilities are reliable and skilled individuals with the potential to belong fully to the world of work in all industries and types of positions. However, it has been proven again that PWD are often overlooked when it comes to hiring.

15% of the global population have a disability – amounting to over 1 billion people. 80% of disabilities are invisible and acquired between the ages of 18 and 64 ‘ working age. It is time to dispel the myth that it is hard to find disabled talent. Initial findings from the Valuable Truth, a survey conducted by the global business collective the Valuable 500, found that 47% of employers believe a barrier to the recruitment and retention of disabled employees is due to the lack of candidates. Conversely, research undertaken by Virgin Media and Scope, found that in the UK alone, there are over 1m people with disabilities with a desire to work who are being denied the opportunity.

Disability has remained on the fringes of the diversity and inclusion movement due to a lack of understanding about the wealth of expertise available and fear of doing ‘it’ wrong. Often disabled talent is overlooked as many institutions are unaware of the benefits to the economy, the business world and to society of inclusion. The Valuable Truth insights outlined how misconceptions, lack of representation and taboos still play a detrimental role in recruitment policies. 

Moreover, Virgin Media and Scope’s data, supported by an Opinium survey comprising of 2000 people with disabilities, found that when applying for jobs only half of applications result in an interview, compared with 69% for non-disabled applicants. The most recent government figures show that in 2021 the disability employment gap was 28.4% – a marginal uplift of 0.7% from 2020’s figure. Employers still need to do more.

What does more look like?

Employers need to foster a culture in which applicants can feel safe, without fear of prejudice and be recognised for their talent. To attract this talent a good starting point is to ensure recruitment practices welcome applications from disabled people. Recruitment platforms need to be accessible and cater for all. We need to eliminate biased AI systems that automatically reject candidates   and we need to be intentional about how and where roles are advertised. 

Next employers need to identify the barriers which prevent all employees from flourishing and put in place the support systems that enable their workforce to perform at their best. Encouraging employees to have an open dialogue with the workplace, establishing ERGs with executive sponsorship, allows employees to bring their whole selves to work. Everybody needed accommodations throughout the pandemic. In just 17 days, ways of working were reformed and the requests that the disabled community had been crying out for were actioned – for example flexible home working. This has highlighted that businesses can react and adapt rapidly. We must remember this and learn the lessons as businesses rebuild post the pandemic.  

According to further insights from the Valuable 500’s Valuable Truth survey, 63% of businesses did not know how many people within their organisation identify as disabled. People with disabilities bring an immense contribution to business and society, they bring a diversity of lived experience, and a wealth of talent, all vital for the business sustainability agenda. Ensuring an inclusive culture and measuring inclusivity is essential to driving action. It is becoming essential for employers to understand the diversity and demographic composition of their organisation to be able to ensure that their business reflects the communities and customers they serve. The business case is clear ‘ the disposable spend of people with disabilities and their families/carers is $13 trillion pa. There is also huge risk and opportunity cost associated with not hiring candidates with different lived experiences.

The future needs to work for everyone. Inclusion is either all for everyone or not at all. Embedding this into the business culture would significantly improve the lives of individuals and positively affect the businesses bottom line. In the UK alone the purple pound is estimated to be worth £274bn.

Disability inclusion within business is not a nice to have ‘ it is a must. We have seen businesses move the dial on other social issues such as gender, race and sexuality, but movement has been limited when realising the talent that the disabled community has to offer. Representation within business is slowly increasing with leaders like  Elon Musk owning his Asperger’s and Richard Branson speaking candidly about his dyslexia. We have made a tiny dent in the glass ceiling, but more still needs to be done.

Joanna Pritchard
Joanna Pritchard

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