Lessons from the 2017 International Disability Employment Forum in South Korea

Brendan Roach and Eona Kim in Seoul

Brendan Roach, Senior Disability Consultant at Business Disability Forum, in Seoul with Eona Kim, Deputy Director of Employment Development Institute (EDI).

By Brendan Roach

I was in Seoul, South Korea earlier this month to speak at the 2017 International Disability Employment Forum.

The three-day event was organised by the Korea Employment Agency for the Disabled (KEAD) and the Korean Ministry of Employment and Labor. KEAD, which provides services for both people with disabilities and employers such as job placements, vocational training and assistive technology support, is working hard to ensure that Korea’s disabled job seekers benefit from the new President Moon Jae-in’s administration’s flagship job creation strategy.

The forum bought together experts from around the world in order to share successes and challenges relating to a number of elements of disability and employment strategy.

Here are some of the interesting points that came out of the discussions over the three days.

 

Day one: Mandatory employment systems (or quotas)

On day one of the forum, policy leads from Japan, Germany and South Korea shared successes and challenges regarding to their country’s quota systems.

Quotas are an interesting topic for me as the UK abandoned its own ineffective quota system in 1995 with the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act (now the Equality Act 2010) which banned discrimination in a number of areas including recruitment and employment.

It was interesting to hear Peter Mozet (Head of division ‘Policy towards persons with severe disabilities’ at the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in Germany) explain that whilst employment rates of people with disabilities in Germany is increasing, it’s impossible to assess the impact of the quota given that it’s just one of a number of disability-related labour market interventions.

During the session, we heard that around 50% of private companies in South Korea don’t comply with the quota. It was also suggested that employers in Germany spend around €500 million a year on fines for non-compliance with the quota – a stark figure which highlights the extent of the waste of both human potential and money. It made me wonder how many of Business Disability Forum’s global members know how much they spend on levies for non-compliance with quotas on a country by country basis?

 

Day two: Employment services, vocational training and employer case studies

On the second day we discussed Japan, Germany and South Korea’s approaches to employment services and vocational training.

One of the reasons that Business Disability Forum was founded over 25 years ago was that initiatives aimed at supporting people with disabilities into employment often failed to take into account the needs of employers. I was keen to hear the examples of how different services were working with employers. For example:

  • In response to Korean business leaders’ concerns that they can’t find qualified candidates with disabilities, KEAD now co-design training courses with employers in order to ensure that trainees are equipped with the skills that businesses need. Training is then delivered in partnership with employers at KEAD’s ‘Individualised Training Centre’.
  • The Vocational Training Department of Japan’s National Vocational Rehabilitation Center provides training for managers and colleagues to help them feel confident and knowledgeable in work with disabled colleagues.

Employer case studies

Brendan Roach speaking at the 2017 International Disability Employment Forum

Brendan Roach speaking at the 2017 International Disability Employment Forum

The employers represented at the Forum varied in approach, although all specialised in the employment of people with disabilities. For example, Samhall AB, a state-owned company in Sweden, has a mandate to create work that furthers the development of people with disabilities and Hanuri (a subsidiary of Korean firm LG Electronics) employs a large proportion of disabled workers and was established specifically to help LG meet its obligations under the Korean quota system.

The theme of inclusion in the mainstream labour market ran through much of the discussion between employers. For example:

  • Hanuri struggle to retain skilled employees because they want to work for mainstream employers either to develop their career or because they fear stigma as a result of working for an employer that is known for specifically for hiring people with disabilities.
  • Samhall must ensure that 1100 employees transition from sheltered employment into mainstream employment every year.

 

Day three: Changes in social environment and the employment of people with disabilities

 

On day three, I was part of a panel which discussed future challenges for disability and employment such as an aging population, mental ill-health, economic downturn and technological advances.

Disability and aging

Kazuyuki Kokubun (Director, Employment Development and Promotion Dept. Japan Organization for Employment of the Elderly, Persons with Disabilities and Jobseekers) shared the Japanese government’s employment strategy regarding the twin challenges of the country’s low birth rate and rapidly aging population. In addition to encouraging wellbeing initiatives, the government is also encouraging employers to adopt the approach of making workplace adjustments (e.g. changes to how, when or where work is done) for older employees.

This focus on making workplace adjustments for older workers mirrors the approach of leading Business Disability Forum members who apply their disability know-how to recruiting and retaining older workers.

Mental health

Christopher Prinz (Senior Policy Analyst, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) highlighted mental-health related policy challenges in a number of areas including workplaces and employers. Christopher highlighted the importance of:

  • Raising awareness and competence among management and co-workers.
  • Promoting employee assistance programmes.
  • Ensuring that occupational health advisers have strong psychological expertise.
  • Developing a robust approach to managing sickness abse
    nce which includes a strong focus on return-to-work support.

These recommendations certainly chime with our approach at Business Disability Forum, where we advocate a three pronged approach to managing mental health at work that focuses on both proactive and responsive measures and on creating cultural change. You can read more about our approach here.

 

Future of work

 

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My own presentation focused on the potential impact on disability and employment of economic downturn and future industrial changes such as the digital era.

It’s clear that technological developments bring both challenges and opportunities for employers and employees with disabilities. In terms of the benefits:

  • Technology can liberate the potential of employees with disabilities. For example screen reader software enables visually impaired colleagues to access the internet and sign language users can now access real-time sign language interpretation via their tablet device rather than having to rely on booking an interpreter to attend a meeting in person.
  • Digital advances means that employees are increasingly able to work remotely which might enable employees with disabilities to manage their work and impairment more effectively as a result of having greater control over how, where and when work is carried out.

Technology doesn’t always liberate though. For example:

  • There is often a lack of awareness about the availability of technical adjustments on the part of both individuals and employers.
  • The legacy systems used by large organisations are often inaccessible and expensive to retrofit.
  • Inaccessible online recruitment websites can mean that some talented applicants with disabilities don’t get passed the application phase.

To support businesses to navigate these challenges, Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce (a group of some of the world’s largest suppliers and procurers of technology) has created an Accessible Technology Charter and Accessibility Maturity Model to help organisations measure and improve their performance.

Look out for more from Business Disability Forum on the future of work as it relates to disability in 2018.

 

On the way home

As I headed home from a fascinating three days, I reflected on some of the learning for Business Disability Forum’s global members and what might represent common principles for the variety of stakeholders and nationalities represented at the Forum.

Certainly for Business Disability Forum’s global members, it will be important to:

  • Ensure that you have a clear understanding of the quota requirements of each country in which you operate and develop a strategy for recruiting more talented employees with disabilities. This means access to wider pool of talent and paying less in fines.
  • The strategy should aim to make mainstream recruitment processes as accessible as possible and to identify local agencies who understand your resourcing requirements and equip candidates with disabilities with the skills your business needs.
  • Understand and address specific regional and local demographic issues. For example, a strategy to retain an aging workforce is clearly a priority in Japan, North America and much of Europe but may not be your most pressing concern in say Africa or the Middle East.

More generally, it was clear that wherever there is focus on disability and employment it will be vital that:

  • Action is taken to the change attitudes of business and the wider public and that negative stereotypes and low expectations of people with disabilities are routinely and robustly challenged.
  • Job seekers with disabilities are equipped with the skills required by today and tomorrow’s employers.
  • Employers are positioned as a valued customer in any initiative designed to support people with disabilities into work. They also need access to practical guidance and support in order to turn commitment into meaningful action.

What universities can learn from Manchester Metropolitan’s approach to disability

Picture of Manchester city hall
By Samuel Buckley

Over the 13 years organisations have been using our Disability Standard to develop and improve the ways they work with disabled people, only 2 universities have joined the ranks of the highest-scoring organisations – Manchester Metropolitan University and the Open University.

Under our Disability Standard, organisations are scored, on a 100-point scale, according to how good practice is in different business areas and how well the whole organisation approaches disability. Top scoring organisations enter our Roll of Honour – scoring Bronze (70%), Silver (80%) or Gold (90%). So far, only 2 universities have made it into one of these top three tiers.

Manchester Metropolitan became the first and so far only university to achieve a top Gold score in 2017, garnering a mark of 92 on the Disability Standard’s 100-point scoring system.

So what sets the top-scoring Manchester Metropolitan University’s approach aside from the other 130 universities operating in the UK?

Perhaps more than anything else, we’ve found that a key ingredient of a successful approach to disability is positivity. Manchester Met’s positive culture around diversity and inclusion went together with willingness by staff to take responsibility for their work on accessibility.

Crucially, Manchester Met also analysed their current practice and sought opinions from staff and students. They are particularly responsive to feedback and the need to make adjustments creating an accessible 3D campus map for a disabled student for example.
Finally, the university’s good practice was enabled by the way that it distributed knowledge among its staff, using bespoke guides for disabled staff, managers and job candidates, to support the processes around adjustments.

Indeed the staff were credited by Jean-Noel Ezingeard, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, who said: “The award is result of a tremendous amount of work from the Equality & Diversity team, our Disabled Staff Forum, Equality & Diversity Champions and colleagues across the University that have worked very hard to deliver the environment that’s been recognised by the award. Beyond the badge, this is also a celebration of our positive culture toward Equality and Diversity – something we are all proud of.”

Using the Disability Standard repeatedly over several years helped the university to identify areas for improvement, enabling staff to develop practice to the point where the became a sector leader.

In short, then, Manchester Metropolitan’s success is down to its approach – as it is with any organisation – rather than resources. Likewise, a similarly unified approach garnered the Open University a Bronze rating in 2016.

Universities have a lot to gain by taking this whole-organisational approach to disability. Britain’s universities employ some 750,000 people, and cater to around 2.28 million students. A great number of these will have disabilities or long-term health conditions – and they will walk away from services and workplaces that don’t welcome or include them.

Perhaps even more pertinent is the fact that a university, as with any organisation, that welcomes disabled people is one that welcomes everyone.

When it comes to going global with accessible IT, the future is now

Business Disability Forum. Marketing photos

By Neil Milliken, Head of Accessibility and Digital Inclusion, Atos

As more and more businesses find they have to consider their work not just on a national but an international scale, the phrase ‘full accessibility’ takes on a new meaning. At Atos, for instance, we have around 100,000 employees located in more than 70 countries – so how do we ensure accessibility for all when we are working at this scale?

For those in IT and technology, this is a very pertinent question, because IT is central to our new global style of working. It isn’t a challenge that we can ignore if we want our systems to work for everyone.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day in May made it a good time to consider this question, and certainly it was great to see that so many organisations like Microsoft, Orange and Barclays share how they met the challenge at an event we held at Atos to mark the day. We used IT to make this event globally accessible too, in keeping with the theme: we held events in the UK, US, France, Spain, Austria and India, and live-streamed the UK event with closed captioning.

This kind of approach is key to accessibility on a global scale: it is about providing a standard service regardless of location or country. New technology and IT systems provide a huge opportunity in doing this, because they provide a single platform for customers and employees to use all over the world. But this also means they need to work, and to work perfectly, for everyone.

home-worker-image-obscured-person-using-a-laptop-with-mug-of-coffeeThis means taking a single approach which has been shown to work with your IT systems locally but then adapting it for different locations, working styles, and countries. At Atos, for example, we are seeking to do this by taking our UK model and using it as a blueprint for our work internationally.

The key elements of this blueprint? First and foremost, a holistic approach that goes beyond the technology itself. Our work on accessibility naturally included practical solutions such as assistive technology and overcoming any potential compatibility barriers with existing IT systems, but it also meant changing the way we approach governance around IT to incorporate more portable devices, flexible working and availability of specialized software.

A good way in to establishing this new way of working is to use an ‘tried-and-tested’ method, which for us was the ‘Accessibility Maturity Model’ developed by Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce. Applying the Model when developing our approach to accessibility also meant we could use

Taking a holistic approach also involved building knowledge of accessibility among staff. We did this with specific training on accessibility for colleagues but went further by including accessibility in our standard development methodologies and creating a world first Accessibility Apprenticeship program.

Another element to this is building on that knowledge base and encouraging employees to exchange thoughts and learning. We did this at Atos though our enterprise social network and our think tank the “Scientific Community” which produces thought leadership for the organisation, publishing blogs magazines and white papers and also keeping people up to date with “learn with Adrian” sessions every hosted by our CEO Adrian Gregory.

One way to keep up the knowledge exchange is to engage with others working in the same field within a safe space. With us at Atos this came in the form of Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce, where senior people from a range of sectors come together to discuss our work around accessibility and share ideas.

Key to the holistic approach happening, though, and central to the success of any accessibility initiative, is senior buy-in. You need this not just to affect changes in thinking or procedures but also so you have a highly visible person to champion accessibility. At Atos, this started with our Head of Strategy but we now have support from our Global CIO as well. On a global level, this also means securing the buy-in of regional managers so that you can be supported in implementing the same changes at different locations and have a senior figure to support that rollout.

The last element, and one that is very much relevant in the world of IT, is keeping track of developments in the sector, and in 2017 those developments are happening as fast ever. We are seeing increased automation, huge advances in AI and even, with Elon Musk and neural lace, research into how computer systems can interface with the human brain. This is all very interesting to watch, and indeed some of it is still very much at the theoretical stage: but there’s no doubt that at some point it will have a bearing on accessibility and the way this is delivered for employees and customers.

Perhaps most immediate impact is from automation, and indeed there is an imperative for businesses now in reskilling workers for the new economy that automation and AI will bring. But again this is a major opportunity – for in creating these new roles, we can put accessibility at the centre of employees’ remits from the get-go.

We have still got a way to go on digital accessibility in the business world, and accessibility as a whole. But the rewards for making progress are obvious. As many people point out, this is the right thing to do but is also a commercial imperative: significantly, the biggest calls for greater accessibility come from customers, even more so than staff. At Atos some of our highest customer satisfaction ratings come from disabled people, for instance, because of the accessible features we have implemented. Furthermore for any organization hoping to be successful it pays to harness the talents of every member of staff – and key to that is removing all possible barriers.

These developments can all be harnessed in making businesses more open and inclusive for everyone, and the benefits that follow: it just remains to meet the challenges of those developments.

Business Disability Forum’s big day out – film festival winners

By Ebunola Adenipekun

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After months of planning, the day of our Technology Taskforce film festival finally arrived and it was truly an amazing event! (Even if we do say so ourselves!)

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Generously hosted by KPMG at their Canary Wharf offices and sponsored by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the event saw the outcome of the previously set 72 hour film challenge to university students who were asked: “Business, technology, disability: how does technology showcase disabled talent?”. The challenge called on students from across the country to create a film that embodied the brief. Prizes were donated by Barclays, Microlink, Microsoft, Santander – and KPMG who gave a top of the range laptop!

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As well as showcasing great film, we also wanted the event to provoke thoughts about the next generation of disabled people and as they prepare to enter the world of work with a fresh set of ideas, perspectives and expectations, are we as employers ready to harness this new pool of talent, or will existing barriers mean that we miss the opportunity?

Our winners!

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In third place was ‘The Wheelchair Man’, by Trine Hagan, Gavin Roberts and Joey Thompson from the University of Creative Arts. It told the story of student Joey who has  adjusted to life with a disability while at university both by getting used to assistive technology and with the support of others through online spaces such as YouTube. They won 2 Amazon Echo dots and an Amazon Firestick TV.

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The runner up was ‘Why I Make My Life So Hard’ by Oliver Lam-Watson of Kingston University, which came from a question the filmmaker asked himself about carrying heavy and often clunky filming gear around in his determination to be an influential filmmaker. He won Wembley tickets, Amazon Echo dot, as well as a Motorola Moto Smart watch.

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And *drumroll please*…

….first place was given to Wolf pack a talented team of two Wolverhampton University students, William Horsefield and Samuel Ash whose film ‘Big Day’ examined how assistive technology could help someone move into the world of work, through interviews and beyond. The film also explored the creation of an app in which sign language could be converted to text on a phone. An exciting prospect!

Wolf pack, won 1st place receiving an  Amazon Echo, Lenovo X260 Laptop, XBOX One S 1TB and Minecraft games and an Apple TV.

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Jeff A. King, Assistant Vice President, European IT, Enterprise Rent-A-Car said: “We’ve teamed up with the Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce for a unique event. It’s a Film Festival that provides a look at the world through the eyes of young disabled students preparing to go for their first jobs. It goes without saying that workplaces need to understand each new generation of graduates. After all they are the people who will ultimately shape the organisation and ensure it meets the future with fresh ideas and remains relevant. More immediately, this is about getting the best out of every employee in the organisation and utilising the most diverse possible pool of talent.”

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As well as the three talented winners, there were also short films from our hosts KPMG who screened ‘No More Awkwardness’ which highlighted how within their organisation the conversation of disability is normalised.

Our sponsors Enterprise Rent-A-Car screened their film ‘The Blind Hike’ which was a tale of a father and son who use their rented cars to explore the world.


We also screened our own film ‘Inside Nutmeg House’ – taking a look at why we do what we do through a day in the life of a Disability Consultant and a Relationship Manager.

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This film festival had a great turn out from our membership, so a big thank you to all who came along to support and we very much look forward to seeing you next year!

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Why every employer should see the films at the Technology Taskforce Film Festival

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By Jeff A. King, Assistant Vice President, European IT, Enterprise Rent-A-Car

We’ve teamed up with the Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce for a unique event. It’s a Film Festival that provides a look at the world through the eyes of young disabled students preparing to go for their first jobs.

It goes without saying that workplaces need to understand each new generation of graduates. After all they are the people who will ultimately shape the organisation and ensure it meets the future with fresh ideas and remains relevant. More immediately, this is about getting the best out of every employee in the organisation and utilising the most diverse possible pool of talent.

Therefore it is a given that workplaces need to understand disabled employees and candidates, for the same reason. It’s the right thing to do and means your business is fair and open, but, more importantly, it also means that every employee has the chance to succeed and achieve their full potential in an environment where they are valued and respected.

Judging films for this year’s Film Festival has been particularly interesting because this new generation of disabled talent has grown up or come of age with hard-fought legislation such as the DDA and Equality Act already in place.

This means they will bring a formidable range of new ideas and approaches to the workplace, but also that they will expect and want new things from their employer. This shouldn’t be a source of concern for recruiters – it should be treated as a real opportunity to develop the way we work and problem-solve.

So it’s just down to us as organisations to rise to the challenge.

Some of the most inspiring aspects of the Film Festival entries were the ways they showed how understanding and adjustments, whether this was by entire organisations or just by individuals working together, can break down any barrier.

We specifically wanted to see the entrants weave in the theme of technology and another great thing to see was how technology has enabled not only disabled people, but entire workforces to operate in a more accessible way.

Seeing the work of these talented young filmmakers, I am reminded of how successful this approach was in one of our interns, who shared her story on our website.

Mollie recently started with us as a Management Trainee Intern at our Midlands group and her experience shows how simple adjustments to the work environment can enable a talented candidate to shine. She immediately felt able to share the fact that she had dyslexia when she came to work for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and was also secure in the knowledge that she would receive any necessary adjustments in a timely manner.

This meant that a talented new trainee was able to take on every aspect of her new job to the best of her ability, and that there were no barriers when it came to hiring new talent.

758500bf-8d25-49ab-ae05-1ef6f601618bSuccesses like this are among the many reasons why I would like to encourage as many businesses as possible to see these films. Hearing what can help break down barriers for disabled people – be that technology, collaboration or adjustments – in their own words, is something all businesses should do.

We’ll be screening our own film at the Film Festival, ‘Blind Hike’, which I feel sums up what we are hoping to achieve in terms of breaking down barriers: it’s about no experience or achievement being off limits and realising the potential that everyone has.

Face Equality Day – and its challenge to employers

By James Partridge OBE, Chief Executive, Changing Faces

On 26 May 2017 Changing Faces held the UK’s first Face Equality Day. People across the country wore the unique butterfly that is Changing Faces logo on their faces and bodies – and many companies pledged their support to promote face equality in their organisations.

And David Isaac, the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “At the Commission we are working to deliver a fairer Britain for everyone and we wholeheartedly support both Changing Faces and their Face Equality campaign.”

Why a Face Equality Day?

Because over the last 25 years, Changing Faces has received far too many anecdotal

reports – borne out by research – that people with disfigurements to their face or body are seriously disadvantaged in British society. Which is why we lobbied for them to be protected under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 – successfully thanks in large part to the Employer’s Forum on Disability (as Business Disability Forum was then).

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In 2008, we launched the campaign for face equality with additional information from an Implicit Attitudes Test (IAT). This showed very substantial unconscious bias: nine out of 10 members of the public found it very difficult to associate positive characteristics to someone with an unusual-looking face, believing them less likely to be successful or happy, and less fun to be with.

Since 2008, we have endeavoured to raise awareness of the prejudice and discrimination associated with disfigurement – through poster campaigns, work in schools and with many employers, initiatives such as my reading the news on Channel 5 and a film starring Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary in Downton Abbey) pointing up the lazy use of scarring by Hollywood and other film directors (https://www.changingfaces.org.uk/campaigns/face-equality/face-equality-film).

We have made some progress in shifting public attitudes. The number of people showing bias is now down to seven out of ten according to the latest IAT study (http://www.changingfaces.org.uk/fetest).

But there is far to go. Just how far is now clear because, on Face Equality Day, Changing Faces published a shocking report, Disfigurement in the UK.

This shows that British society presents a vastly unequal playing field for people with disfigurements in almost every aspect of life which leads them to have lower aspirations and expectations, and where they are resigned to the inevitability of staring, abuse and injustice.

If you have a condition, mark or scar that affects your appearance (such as from a cleft lip and palate, a Bell’s palsy, scarring from an accident or burns, after cancer surgery or from psoriasis, vitiligo or rosacea) you are likely to face widespread discrimination, multiple challenges, and often abuse and harassment from other people.

The report is based on a 200-question survey completed by over 800 people and is available here: https://www.changingfaces.org.uk/campaigns/dituk

The challenge to Business Disability Forum members

I encourage – ask – all members of Business Disability Forum to read this report because we have been working with many of you and your organisations to create knowledge and confidence around disfigurement for more than 20 years.

We had hoped that, with disfigurement included in the Equality Act 2010 and other legislation, the workplace would be a place in which people who have a disfigurement would be able to contribute without prejudice and harassment. Sadly the evidence suggests this is far from the case.

Almost four-fifths (79.5%) of our respondents have avoided applying for a job because of potential reactions at interview or from new colleagues, 40.8% think their appearance hindered or prevented them from getting a job, and 55.7% think that their condition affected their lifetime ambitions for their career. One in six (16.7%) of respondents have had their condition or appearance mentioned at a job interview and, of these instances, in 82.6% of cases it was the interviewer who mentioned it.

If they did get into a new role, things don’t appear to get much better. 62.9% said that their appearance had been mentioned by work colleagues, and 26.2% – more than a quarter – have experienced discrimination from colleagues at the same rank or level of employment. Almost a fifth (17.8%) report experiencing discrimination or unfairness from their manager:

“A co-worker regularly singled me out and made comments and jokes about my skin suggesting I had spent too much time in the sun or that I must enjoy my alcohol. It was distressing and I left because of it.”

What needs to be done?

This report is a call to action for employers across Britain – and we hope BDF members will lead the way.

All employers and recruitment agencies need to be aware of their legal obligations to ensure people with disfigurements are not treated unfairly or discriminated against in the workplace. Disfigurement should be included equal opportunities policies and their monitoring. ‘Disfigurement confidence’ training should be mandated for HR teams and interviewers and all staff should receive face equality training – which Changing Faces can provide.

If you would like more information or advice, please contact Henrietta Spalding, Head of Advocacy, on henrietta.spalding@changingfaces.org.uk

Being inclusive in recruitment is more than just ‘doing the right thing’ – it makes business sense

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Peter Holliday speaking at the BDF Conference on Disability-Smart Suppliers & Partners in April 2017

By Peter Holliday, Managing Director, Sopra Steria Recruitment

Working with suppliers and partners isn’t always discussed as a factor in the way organisations approach disability – but it should be.

This is why it was very rewarding to join the wider discussion on working with suppliers and partners at Business Disability Forum’s annual conference – and even more interesting from our perspective as a recruitment supplier.

Employers in the UK spend £38 billion a year on contract and permanent recruitment suppliers alone – so it pays to ensure that this relationship between organisations and suppliers works well for everyone.

The recruitment profession is often considered to be operating at arms length from companies who need candidates. However, enlightened recruitment consultants working in true partnership with enlightened hirers can deliver great results together.

We do this because we believe that enlightened recruitment providers can really add value in this way, allowing for recruitment outsourcing to be seen as an opportunity for good practice to happen, rather than an obstacle to it.

It needs to be this way because, as a company procuring services, your equality agenda will only be as good as your suppliers. This is true of any service you outsource but is particularly true of recruitment, where inaccessible practice could block candidates or deny them an equal chance at success.

Recruitment service providers can now play a significant role in driving disability best practice to employers and candidates.

This is certainly what we’ve set out to do at Sopra Steria Recruitment, and I feel that our approach shows the relatively straightforward steps a supplier can take to ensure they are meeting best practice. It is a case of examining your processes for accessibility, as we did, and removing any potential barriers. For example, we developed how we advertised roles, using more inclusive job boards and making our own website more accessible.

Going further we trained our own recruiters through Business Disability Forum’s experts, enabling them to handle conversations on disability.

Taking these positive steps towards being a disability-smart supplier is more than just the right thing to do – it is also something that makes excellent business sense. Suppliers can gain an excellent business advantage from being disability-smart, not least when it comes to being awarded contracts during the tendering process. For example, on at least three occasions we were appointed by organisations that placed a 10% weighting in their tender criteria on having a policy around disability. More than that, we could demonstrate what we do on the ground, how we reach out to disabled workers, and how we make absolutely sure that they get equal opportunities. Showing this commitment to inclusivity will set disability-smart suppliers apart in terms of being partners in efforts on equality – and as providers that will bring added value to their services.

Key to this, ultimately, is making inclusivity the standard: making it business-as-usual. This was one of the many reasons we have chosen to sponsor and support Business Disability Forum’s Recruitment Service Provider Charter. It makes sense for employers and recruitment providers alike to follow the practical steps towards disability-smart recruitment the Recruitment Charter sets down. The results are employers that benefit from a wider pool of talent, and hiring processes that are open, accessible and fair for everyone.

The Recruitment Service Provider Charter provides employers and recruitment organisations with practical steps to becoming disability-smart and advice on how to promote barrier-free recruitment practices. To find out more about the Charter and download a copy, visit our website.

To find out more about Sopra Steria Recruitment’s approach to barrier-free recruitment, www.soprasteriarecruitment.co.uk or email contact.recruitment@soprasteria.com or call Tel: +44 (0) 370 010 7715