The disability employment gap remains high at 28.4%, despite a small decrease of 4.8% over the last eight years. In a bid to improve inclusive practices within the UK, the Government has now launched a consultation into whether workforce reporting on disability should be introduced for employers with 250 or more employees.
The consultation fulfils the National Disability Strategy commitment to consult on workforce reporting on disability for large employers (i.e. those deemed to have 250 or more employees). Research published by the CIPD indicated that only 21% of respondents were aware of the current voluntary reporting framework for disability. Of these, 37% had adopted at least part of the framework. Over three-quarters of respondents agreed that there was a strong morale case for reporting disability, mental health and well-being data.
In its consultation, the Government is welcoming views on the current landscape, the benefits and barriers to disability workforce reporting, considerations if mandatory disability workforce reporting was implemented, as well as alternative approaches that can be adopted.
Under the Equality Act 2010 (“the Act”), employers have a positive legal duty to support employees with a disability by making reasonable adjustments.
The Act defines disabled persons as individuals with a physical or mental impairment which has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities.
For the purposes of the consultation “disabled people” also include those with chronic illnesses that have a substantial and long-term impact on every-day life, and people who identify as neurodiverse, such as people with autism, Asperger’s syndrome and dyslexia.
Benefits for employers
A reporting obligation may increase transparency and help to build workplaces that are more inclusive, irrespective of disability. It could also provide an important baseline for employers to assess the impact of their inclusive practices on the recruitment and retention of disabled people and prompt them to take steps to proactively tackle any existing disability employment gap. Evidence has shown that having an inclusive workforce has a huge benefit to an organisation because of specialist skills that can be tapped into, experiences and diverse thinking. Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace can improve morale and workplace culture as well as increase staff engagement. It can also send an important message to employees (prospective or current) about a business’s values and ethos.
What employers can do
Whilst it remains to be seen whether enforcing any disability reporting will have any real impact for disabled people, there are steps which employers can take to help bridge the gap. Those include:
- Partaking in the voluntary reporting framework available;
- Reviewing current disability and inclusivity policies to ensure that they are up-to-date, fit for purposes and suitable for disabled employees;
- Updating job adverts and recruitment processes to ensure that they are appropriate and will not dissuade disabled candidates from applying;
- Educating the workforce (at all levels) on the use of inclusive language and implementing tailored diversity training for staff; and
- Understanding an employee’s disability and their needs, and avoid generalising or making assumptions based on knowledge of another individual’s disability.
The consultation is open to a wide range of people including (but not limited to) employers, employees, disabled individuals and other disability organisations. It will remain open until 11.45pm on 25 March 2022. Further details of how to take part in the consultation can be found on the Government website.
For more information, please contact a member of the Employment Team.