Jane Hatton Evenbreak
One of my missions in life is to promote the benefits of employing disabled people to employers. Of course there are many sound business reasons for doing so, apart from the ethics involved in taking on disabled employees.
Disabled employees are, on average, at least as productive as our non-disabled colleagues, and we have less time off sick, have fewer workplace accidents and tend to stay in our jobs longer.
So if you want loyal, productive staff who save you money in terms of retention, you need to be attracting disabled staff! Also, there are over 11 million disabled people in the UK – that’s a lot of consumers. In fact we spend somewhere between £50 million and £80 million a year between us. Having inside knowledge of this market has to be beneficial to any enterprise’s bottom line.
The challenge is persuading the corporate world of these measurable, tangible benefits. Myths still abound about disabled people being expensive to employ. This is rarely true. Most need no adaptations at all, those that do cost little or no money (e.g. flexible working patterns) and in most cases, reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of a disabled employee will be covered by Access to Work.
For any business, it’s got to be A Good Thing. Not only will employing disabled people help gain all of the benefits outlined earlier, it also contributes to promoting this good practice. Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people – and, contrary to the stories in the popular press, this isn’t because we are all lazy benefit scroungers! The difference people find when they send in a straight CV compared to when they declare a disability is quite significant. This level of prejudice is damaging to disabled applicants, but also damaging to employers, who may be missing out on the best talent.
Once employers understand this, the problem doesn’t end there. Attracting disabled applicants – who have vast experience of being rejected the very minute they declare their disabilities – can be easier said than done. Employers have to work hard to give disabled applicants the confidence that they will be taken seriously. That the employer is enlightened enough to look beyond the disabilities and find the skills and talents on offer.
It’s for this reason I found Evenbreak – a specialist not-for-profit job board for disabled job seekers which helps genuinely inclusive employers attract more talented disabled people. Employers such as Asda, BBC, Ernst & Young, John Lewis Partnership, Network Rail, Rank, Zurich Finance and many others have already discovered the benefits of employing disabled people.
Let’s hope this discovery becomes more widespread as time goes on – and that more and more employers focus on what people can do rather than what they can’t.
Jane Hatton is the founder of Evenbreak (www.evenbreak.co.uk), a not-for-profit job board for disabled job seekers, enabling inclusive employers to attract talented disabled candidates. Jane was a finalist in the Stelios Disabled Entrepreneur Awards 2008.