UK employers, faced with an increasingly ageing workforce, need to improve the way they support people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

The situation

There are seven million people of working age with a disability or long-term health condition in the UK, but only half of them are in work; this represents a huge pool of talent that businesses are potentially missing out on.

In addition, many disabled people (as well as those with long-term health conditions who are already in employment) either face prejudice or a lack of provision when it comes to the support they need to help them reach their potential or, sometimes, to even remain in work. Too many people working with a disability choose not to disclose it to their employer for fear of negative consequences (in terms of their career or job security).

The issue will only grow in prominence as a result of our ageing working population; this means employers will have to improve how they manage and support growing numbers of people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

CIPD viewpoint

As a Disability Confident Leader, the CIPD is firmly committed to ensuring that people with a disability or long-term health condition do not face additional barriers in recruitment, at work, or when accessing training.

Organisations that have a positive and inclusive approach to managing disability can reap many benefits, including increased loyalty and commitment from staff, the ability to tap into different perspectives and skills which can boost innovation and performance, and the ability to recruit and retain good people. It also makes commercial sense. The best businesses like to reflect the make-up of their consumer base in their workforce – disabled customers and their families have a spending power worth £249 billion.

Businesses that aren’t inclusive - and don’t manage health and disability effectively - risk their wider reputation as an employer and business, as well as legal action if they fail to comply with equalities law.

A key issue is to ensure that line managers are aware of their responsibilities for enabling reasonable adjustment; these adjustments are often perfectly achievable, such as providing flexibility over working patterns. We’ve worked with the Department for Work and Pensions to create a good practice guide for line managers on recruiting, managing and developing people with a disability or health condition.

Actions for Government

  • Launch a major, ongoing and well-resourced campaign to raise awareness of the adjustments employers can make to help people with a disability or health condition access, stay in and thrive in work. Encourage a culture of inclusion among employers and align it with the Disability Confident campaign.

  • Establish a ‘one-stop shop’ for employers to make it easier for them to navigate the many sources of information, advice and guidance already available.

  • Review the Access to Work scheme to ensure it is more user-friendly for employers and better promoted.

Recommendations for employers

  • Review your organisation’s policy on disability in the workplace and your current process for making adjustments for employees. Identify whether it’s fit for purpose, and effective in meeting the needs of the business whilst supporting employees.

  • Develop an action plan for change and assign accountability to people in senior roles.

  • Follow good recruitment practice, such as the Recruitment Charter launched by the Business Disability Forum, or those identified in the CIPD recruitment factsheet.

  • Network with other employers who are developing disability-related workplace practices to share learning and experiences. Keep up to date with good practice and legal developments.

  • Ensure that line managers are appropriately trained with the skills they need to manage employees effectively, and the knowledge to understand their legal obligations (as well as their employer’s policy expectation). Line managers need to know how to navigate conversations about disability and conditions with employees and understand what they need to do in order to arrange and implement adjustments.

CIPD resources and references

Guidance and factsheets

Consultation responses

External resources and references

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