There are 1.3 million disabled people in the UK that want to work and nearly 1 billion disabled people worldwide. While recent research from the Government suggested that almost half (42 percent) of disabled jobseekers cite employers’ attitudes as a key barrier to securing work,  it becomes very clear why the employment rate for disabled people has risen so slowly over the past few years from 42.2% in 2002 to 46.3% in 2012.

Amongst a number of other positive attributes, many businesses that currently employ disabled workers describe them as the ‘ultimate problem solvers’. Furthermore, it makes good business sense as on average 20 percent of customers are disabled, which when you consider their friends and family, that market equals a combined spending power of £80 billion a year. Members of this market clearly have a huge amount of buying power and they may chose to do business with a company that is diverse and inclusive of different types of workers. Suddenly, it becomes very clear that being disability confident makes good business sense.

The business case for an inclusive workforce

Businesses have a great opportunity to increase the number of disabled people successfully finding work. Not only does employing an inclusive workforce make sense for a business’ bottom line, but it can be seen as a competitive advantage.  The following advantages should be noted:

Staff retention: only 20 percent of disabled people are born with a disability; 70 percent of illnesses or impairments develop while a person is of working age.  A proportion of this 70 percent are forced to resign due to their disability, this inflicts a direct cost on the employer who must recruit and train a new member of staff.  The ability to implement effective, reasonable adjustments can directly enhance an organisation’s staff retention.

Loyal employees: disabled employees haven historically shown to stay with an organisation longer, be punctual, highly committed and motivated and have lower levels of absenteeism.

Organisations with the ability to accommodate the needs of disabled staff are able to access a wider pool of applicants from which to recruit. This is particularly important for roles that require highly skilled or knowledgeable applicants which, due to their specialism, are in short supply.

Corporate image: a business with a reputation for being socially responsible can gain a significant competitive advantage in the market place and also enhance its staff morale.  Embracing diversity is a significant factor of corporate social responsibility, so the ability to accommodate the needs of disabled staff is an essential process in building a positive image.  Instances of bad practices or discrimination with regards to disabled employees can cause substantial damage to an organisation’s reputation.

Promote inclusive culture: disabled employees can become positive role models to challenge misconceptions in both their personal and professional lives. Consequently, disabled employees can raise awareness around disability and help develop a more inclusive culture in the organisation.

In order to maximise on the value that employing an inclusive workforce can bring to a business, HR teams need to ensure that the appropriate support and adjustments to the recruitment process are available to allow applicants to excel. Adjustments can include an alternative format to the application form, a change to the format of the interview or even the use of an interpreter or work assessment. If an adjustment to the process is necessary, support is available to businesses through Government schemes, such as the Access to Work programme.  These minor adjustments can make the difference between an individual feeling supported in the process and allowing them to showcase themselves at their best – ensuring both parties take the most from the process.

Looking ahead

By looking ahead and becoming more disability confident, businesses will have access to a wider talent pool, creating an increasingly cultured work environment, which will directly improve profitability through more satisfied and productive workers.

Matthew Sanders, Founder and CEO of Placeability