Cracking the code of disability inclusion at work

Wed 04 Aug 2021

Cracking the code of disability inclusion at work

"80% of blind people in the UK are unemployed because it's hard for them to find a job." The words of Sumaira Latif, accessibility leader at Procter & Gamble (P&G), remind us of the reasonable adjustments that organisations are required to implement to foster a disability-inclusive workplace.

Reasonable adjustments are defined in the Equality Act 2010 and for Latif, "accommodations should exist to help level the playing field".

Latif, a marketing professional, is blind and an advocate of disability-inclusive culture at work. She has stated: "My vision is to make Procter & Gamble's products, services and the workplace the first choice for the 1.3 billion people in the world with a disability".

She talks openly about her disability and the challenges she had to overcome to get the job. Her career at P&G started with an IT manager role, and a written assessment part of the recruitment process was a test difficult to pass as it contained graphs and diagrams she was not able to see.

Sumaira Latif

The company hired Latif (pictured) and she now boasts a 20-year career with the consumer-packed goods giant, having progressed through several leadership roles. A personal assistant and the use of accessible software that reads out loud text on her computer screen are some of the reasonable adjustments in place for her.

What adjustments can staff with a disability reasonably expect from an employer to put in place? How to create a reasonable adjustment policy? Karen Jackson, founder and director of law firm didlaw, and Kamran Mallick, CEO at Disability Rights UK will be discussing this very topic at our conference Managing Disability at Work on 24 August.

Disability-inclusive workplace and the new normal

The shift to working from home brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has added pressure to employers and staff, particularly from the increasing use of technology to keep staff working remotely connected. Video conference calls and screen-sharing are popular techniques, but not for everyone.

Jen Rooney

Organisations begin to realise that while challenging, the new normal is an opportunity to explore new approaches that can help them adapt to a wide range of disabilities accordingly – even in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Jen Rooney (pictured), founder of training and coaching firm The Wellbeing Tortoise, will be leading the interactive session 'Supporting disabled staff to work from home' at our conference on 24 August.

Looking at the future of work post-Covid -19, the CIPD's annual UK Working Lives survey found that disadvantages faced by workers with disabilities continue as before while others have worsened since the pandemic hit the UK. The survey follows 2,000 workers to assess the impact of the pandemic on the quality of their working lives.

Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser of employment relations at CIPD, said the research revealed that workload assessments were previously equal but have increased for those with disabilities, potentially creating a new disability gap. "However, there is no difference in the impact of work on people's mental health," she explained.

Daniel Cadey, senior disability business partners at Business Disability Forum, agreed with Suff, and noted that fostering a disability-inclusive culture both in the office and remotely requires four actions: to ask, listen, learn, and act.

He explained: "Whilst managers do not need to be mental health practitioners, there is an increased responsibility on all of us to be mindful of the emotional impact that the pandemic and the circumstances it forced upon us has and will have. So, as we move forward, tentatively and some of us in new roles, organisations or homes, there is an even greater onus on employers to check-in with staff – to listen, and where needed, to act."

Cadey will be speaking at our conference Managing Disability at Work about how to become a disability-confident employer. This online event will provide delegates with a better understanding of disability with information that will help them capitalise on the ever-increasing disability talent pool and the responsibilities they have as staff work remotely.

Seize the opportunity – disability talent pool is rising

The latest data on disability employment in the UK don't tell the full picture yet herald a unique opportunity ahead of us – 52.3% of the 8.4 million disabled people in the UK of working age are employed. This compares to the 81.7% employment rate of those who are not disabled.

Today, the disability employment gap (the difference between the employment rate of disabled and non-disabled people) stands at 28.9 percentage points, but it has remained at around 30% for a decade.

Albeit a slight downward trend, the statistic is a reminder of the pressing need for building knowledge and capabilities to foster a disability-inclusive workplace.

Business leaders are now faced with an equally pressing challenge: attracting this broad talent pool and realising their potential.

And as former EVP of OmnicomGroup, the late Janet Riccio said: “Any company that can authentically crack the code of inclusiveness of all types is going to set themselves apart.”

Managing Disability at Work on 24 August is organised by Dods Diversity & Inclusion in partnership with Business Disability Forum and PurpleSpace.

Explore the agenda and the speaker line-up
Register today!

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