Disability and Employment

Disability can be a difficult topic to speak about especially when it comes to employment. Employers are often thinking what are the best practices when employing someone with a disability so in this blog we are going to be speaking about the recruitment and employment of people with disabilities.

Disability and Employment

What is a disability?

There are many types of disability. Too many to name, but there are several umbrella terms to disability, which are sensory, physical, mental and learning.

Here are some examples:

Sensory – Vision and Hearing Impairment
Physical – Cerebral Palsy, Diabetes
Mental – Depression, Anxiety
Learning – Dyslexia, Dyscalculia

Just to make it even more complicated there are variants within this as some people like myself have more than one disability from multiple categories. To make it even more complicated than that, long-term health conditions are also considered as a disability.

Not all disabilities are visible; there are also many invisible disabilities for example depression or HIV.

Legislation – The Equality Act 2010

The government created legislation in 2010 that protects people with disabilities from discrimination both in and outside of the workplace.

Not every disability or health condition is protected by The Equality Act 2010 and the following definition should be applied:

‘’You are disabled under the ‘Equality Act 2010’ if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long term’ adverse effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.’’

When working alongside people with disabilities in employment you will hear the term ‘reasonable adjustment’. The Equality Act 2010 states that employers and service providers must make reasonable adjustments to prevent people with disabilities being put at severe disadvantage.

So your now thinking what does a reasonable adjustment look like?

For a national organisation, which employs a person with a physical disability, a reasonable adjustment might be step free access to enter and exit a building. However if an independent shop employed this person, it might be more reasonable for the shop to provide the employee with a wheelchair ramp for them to enter and exit a building.

Now the word reasonable is a very grey term because what is reasonable to one person is not necessarily reasonable to another and there are also considerations to how large the employer is. However there are ways in which to seek this information to inform your decisions if as an employer you wish to ensure you are abiding by the rules, regulations and best practice.

 Fair and accessible

In order for us to recruit people with disabilities we must make the recruitment process fair and accessible. Some employers don’t realise that before a candidate with a disability gets to the job interview stage, there are multiple barriers that they face for example job adverts being inaccessible. In some cases job adverts have excluded people with disabilities by stating such things as you must hold a valid driving license. This isn’t completely true as somebody with a disability may have access to a vehicle and may be entitled to a driver funded by access to work.

There are some people with disabilities who would require the advert in a different format for example by having someone read out the information via the telephone and some people use email as an alternative method. In most adverts there are contact details listed at the bottom of the advert. Is this person well informed about the job and are they able to provide the advert in an alternative format?

The job interview comes with multiple barriers for people with disabilities. Some people with disabilities may find it difficult to get to a job interview for a number of reasons for example they haven’t secured the job with you in order to have access to funding that may enable them to get to work on time, they may have recognised the job advert at short notice and arranging support to enable them to attend the interview could prove difficult. Advances in technology such as Skype or the good old telephone may prove invaluable in opening up this job opportunity to a wider field of candidates.

Advertising equals diversity

Ensuring the way your job is advertised in more than one place is key. Most providers promote their job adverts on one particular platform. How about having a multi-layered approach by advertising your advert on multiple platforms. Some may pose the question that this could be costly for organisations but forums for people with disabilities, social media, and many other advertising channels are sometimes free and provide the opportunity to create a diverse workforce, as inevitably you will get different types of candidates.

Is it all about physical adjustments?

Often those involved in making the recruitment process accessible fixate on physical adjustments such as step free access, lifts, hearing loops, which are the very obvious ones. Although they are still very valuable there is much more to recruiting someone with a disability than this. Being aware of the way in which you speak to someone with a disability, maintaining eye contact and also looking in the candidates general direction when they are vision impaired. It is often the case that because the candidate has limited eyesight the interviewer doesn’t maintain eye contact. By treating someone fairly and with the same level of enthusiasm as a non-disabled candidate, will ensure better rapport. Furthermore if that candidate is then successful in achieving the job there is a better impression of the organisation on the run up to the candidate accepting the position.

Interviewing candidates for a job requires a vast amount of skills in which some people often miss out. Interviewers must recognise their own unconscious biases and have a certain amount of self-awareness to ensure fair treatment for all.

Top tips:

  • Ensuring that job adverts are accessible
  • To hold the job interviews in an accessible location
  • To hold yourself in the same way you would when interviewing someone who doesn’t have a disability

To find out more about making your recruitment process accessible you may wish to attend Disability Awareness Training.

Written by Centre for Resolution

How To Get Back Into Work After A Spinal Cord Injury

When you have suffered a spinal cord injury the idea of returning to work may seem like a daunting prospect. However, there are many ways you can help make this process slightly less overwhelming:

What is a spinal cord injury (SCI)?

The spinal cord communicates two-way messages to and from the brain and skin, muscle and organs of your body. Spinal cord damage occurs as a result of accident or illness and interrupts the flow of messages, leading to the loss of movement and/or sensation in different parts of the body.  The severity of this is dependent on where the spinal cord has been damaged in relation to the vertebrae of the back and to the extent of the injury.

spinal cord injury

The benefits of returning to work?

Apart from the obvious physical impact, SCI can deeply affect your mental well-being. Depression and anxiety are a very common effect of this type of injury. Obviously, returning to work isn’t possible for everyone, but if it is an option, it can have the following positive effects:

  • Renewed independence and confidence
  • Improve your general health and well-being
  • Increase your self-esteem and give you a sense of purpose
  • Allow you to earn money and feeling like you are making a contribution
  • Encourage you to socialise and meet new people

Know your rights

Make sure that you are aware of all of your workplace rights. As a person with a disability you are legally protected by the Equality Act 2010. This ensures that you are legally entitled to fair treatment when it comes to recruitment, promotion and pay. It also means that employers must make their workplaces accessible to you. This may be by adapting the office equipment to make it easier for you to work, e.g. speech recognition software. Or by ensuring that you meet with an occupational therapist to discuss your skills, abilities and concerns so that they can come up with viable work options.

There are also two government schemes that you can access to help with your return to work:

  • Access To Work – provides money towards the cost of equipment or support workers that can help you to work.
  • Work Choice – a scheme that helps people with disabilities who cannot be helped by any other work scheme, get back into work.

For further information and help on returning back into the work place visit GOV.UK here.

Finances

You may be able to claim government benefits to help you return to work. Employment Support Allowance is offered not only to people who are unable to work due to disability/illness, but also to people who need personalised help so that they are able to work if they want to.

If your SCI was as the result of an accident that wasn’t your fault you may be able to claim compensation. Specialist companies like First4SeriousInjury can advise as to whether you are applicable for compensation and support you throughout your claim journey, reducing the stress involved in receiving what you may be owed.

Before we get into those, let’s get into the benefits of re-entering the workforce. Life changes so much after a spinal cord injury, that going back to work can provide a semblance of normalcy needed by the survivor. Work allows the survivor to feel useful, engage his or her brain, apply his or her talents and experience, and make friends and social connections. No wonder why it’s one of the main goals of all SCI survivors following rehabilitation!

However, a re-entry that isn’t thoughtful can have negative consequences. To that end, we suggest the survivor spend some time being assessed and counselled by a vocational therapist. The vocational therapist will assess the skills, interests, and capabilities of the person, and will help him or her come up with viable work options. The therapist can also ensure that the work environment is modified in a way that gives the survivor the best chance of success. Survivors who had jobs with certain physical requirements may need to change jobs or careers following the injury, while other people can perform their prior jobs with just a few adaptations. In either case, what’s most important is that the strengths of the survivor are focused on, instead of the weaknesses. Most vocational therapists, working with both the survivor and the employer, will develop a strategy designed to help the person succeed.