By Justin Tomlinson MP, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and WorkToday is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the annual event to celebrate the contribution of disabled people across the world. I know that many of your organisations will be marking the day in different ways.I am delighted that CIPD and my Department have today published an updated version of our disability employment guide for line managers. The guide offers managers useful information and advice on the recruitment and retention of disabled people.It’s been updated to reflect the changes in the world of work brought about by the pandemic, and brings together additional information and links from expert organisations. I am hugely grateful to CIPD for their support and their ongoing commitment to Disability Confident and the inclusion agenda.This has been a year like no other. The pandemic has brought with it unprecedented challenges for individuals and businesses alike. HR professionals and managers across the country have had to be smart and fleet-of-foot to adapt, to ensure their businesses continue to operate, and their colleagues can work safely and effectively. In Government, we quickly introduced measures to support jobs like the Job Retention Scheme and support for the self-employed.We aren’t out of the woods yet but, through our Plan for Jobs, we are also taking steps to support job growth in the longer term. As our economy recovers we need to ensure that every individual has the opportunity to contribute to, and benefit from, our national revival. Inclusion and diversity in the workplace is central to this. Not only does it have a critical role to play in businesses’ response to the pandemic, it will also support a safe and speedy recovery.Disabled people have undoubtedly faced difficulties during the pandemic, but I have been heartened to see how, despite the challenges, many employers have taken an inclusive approach to their decision-making and business practices. The changes that many organisations have made to ways of working during the pandemic - whether that’s remote working, greater use of technology or flexible working practices - present some real opportunities for disabled people, offering wider work and career choices. These changes can also help businesses, providing greater access to disabled talent, and helping them to retain and develop disabled employees. Many employers have also introduced different ways of communicating effectively with colleagues, to make sure every team member receives the information and support they need. Inclusion in action!The Government can help businesses realise these benefits.
In the next few months, the Government will be publishing the National Strategy for Disabled People. This will set out a clear vision on disability, and outline practical changes to strengthen disabled people’s ability to participate fully in society.Businesses have a vital role to play in realising a more inclusive society for disabled people, whether they are employees or customers, or both. Although challenges remain, I believe, more than ever, they are ready to do it.
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