Many disabled people are unable to do paid work because their disability prevents them. However, for those who are able to work, their disability may still prevent them getting work, because of the myths surrounding the issue of employing disabled people.
20% of the working population are disabled, and eight out of 10 disabled people acquired their disability during the course of their working life so it’s not just about employing people who are already disabled, it’s also about what to do with existing employees who become disabled.
There are many misconceptions about disabled people, probably driven by the overwhelmingly negative image of them in the mainstream media. The reality is somewhat different, and interestingly, company surveys consistently conclude that organisations who have successfully employed disabled people are keen to employ more.
Learning to understand the commercial potential of having a positive stance towards disability is always a good starting point for helping people to understand the benefits of employing disabled staff. There are more than eight million people in the UK who are disabled with spending power in excess of £40billion. That’s an awful lot of money, and by employing disabled people, understanding disability and generally having a proactive attitude towards it, it could be hugely rewarding to a company’s bottom line.
And staying on the money side of things for a bit, it is much much cheaper to retain a staff member who has become disabled than try to recruit someone new. The Post Office estimates that medically retiring an employee costs around £80,000. Not to mention that if you were to become involved in litigation with regard to a disability claim, the average payout under the DDA last year at an employment tribunal was £13,000.
But isn’t employing (or retaining) disabled people a risk? Aren’t they always off sick, or causing accidents? Studies again show that disabled people in work tend to have better attendance records, stay with employers longer and have fewer accidents at work
Well, OK, but what about all the huge costs involved with adaptations? 45% of employers think that they won’t be able to afford to employ a disabled person – they feel that making adjustments for them will be costly and difficult. In actual fact, only 4% of reasonable adjustments made to facilitate employing a disabled person cost money at all, and with grants and expert support available from a variety of agencies, including the Government, the average cost of adjustments is £184 per disabled employee. A drop in the ocean if this is genuinely the best person for the job.
Shockingly, I have heard employers say that ‘disabled people have nothing to offer’ – I would say, get in touch with the facts, not the myths, and try telling that to Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell and David Blunkett…
What do you think? Benefit or job?