Why the next Government must support business on disability inclusion

With a General Election just around the corner and Brexit still undecided, we are living in uncertain and uncharted times. There are many stories clambering for space in an overly busy news agenda. There is also the risk that important issues such as disability inclusion, will be used as political footballs; kicked around and quickly forgotten once a new government is in power.

It is for this reason that Business Disability Forum has decided to mark international day of persons with disability with the launch of our own manifesto. The document calls on all political parties to better support businesses to deliver on disability inclusion.

Our Member and Partner organisations are committed to delivering more inclusive workplaces and customer experiences. But their work needs to be supported by informed, joined up Government policy, which enhances, not inhibits the lives of disabled people.

Yesterday, we saw the publication of ONS statistics which highlighted the pay gap experienced by disabled people. Pay inequality is a complex issue which cannot be explained through statistics alone. How much a person is paid is closely linked to how society perceives a person’s value and the contribution they make.

We want to ensure that the next Government works with businesses to address not only the pay gap issue, but all other barriers that disabled people experience is accessing employment and society more widely.

Based on the experiences of Members and Partners and the disabled people who work for them, we are therefore calling on the future Government to take the following seven actions:

  • To introduce targeted opportunities, including paid apprenticeships, for people with learning disabilities; recognising the challenges presented by a flattening of job infrastructure.
  • To carry out a robust equality analysis of environmental and human rights policies.
  • To seek the development of a new cross-Government approach to disability; bringing whole-Government consideration to all policy development.
  • To prevent any further watering down of the Equality Act and increasing the enforcement powers and authority of the EHRC, or a similar body. Rights must be enforced, not just protected.
  • To reform Access to Work and to remove the £59,200 cap.
  • To ensure all education and learning opportunities are inclusive and accessible.
  • To introduce a wholesale shift from mandatory ‘one size fits all businesses’ government-led initiatives to an outcome focus approach.

We will monitor progress on these issues and will hold the future Government to account through our consultation responses and policy work.

We are calling on every business to consider how their organisation can contribute to making these asks a reality for the lives of disabled people.

Man working on a computer at a desk

Man working on a computer at a desk

Help to shape research on global disability inclusion strategies

Two hands shaking across a night landscape

Globally, an estimated one billion people have a disability (that’s 15% of the world’s population). There is strong evidence that disability and poverty are linked, with disabled people more likely to live in poverty due to higher unemployment, lower income levels and lower attainment of skills and qualifications. This is a global trend but, unsurprisingly, is especially pronounced in low income countries.

Half of the organisations that we support at Business Disability Forum are global. Between them, they employ more than 8 million people globally. Members and Partners are increasingly telling us that their ambition is to get it right for employees and customers with disabilities wherever they are in world.

Whilst it’s relatively early days, we’re already seeing some brilliant examples of organisations approaching disability as a global business issue. For example, Accenture has a global disability strategy and Shell has developed a global process for making workplace adjustments for employees with disabilities.

Please share your views!

With this in mind, Business Disability Forum is conducting research into disability inclusion at a global business level.

Sponsored by Shell, the project is exploring the existence, and challenges, businesses face in developing a global strategy, as well as lessons learnt so far.

We know this is a complex, but incredibly important area of our work and the only way of exploring it fully is to talk to as many global businesses as possible. It does not matter where your organisation currently stands regarding commitment, or activity, relating to a global strategy for disability inclusion – please share your views in this short online survey.

The body of research will be used to develop guiding principles and practical steps for diversity and inclusion professionals to use within their own organisations. Findings from the survey and the wider research will be published in 2020.

If you work in a global organisation and have a view on how disability inclusion is working, or might work, at a global level in your business, then please take part.  The survey is anonymous and an opinion piece of research, you will not be required to know or share any data. It will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

To take part in the survey please click on the following link https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/GDSS8V6

Please contact us at global@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk if a different format of the questionnaire would work better for you. Do not hesitate to contact us at the same email address if you have any other queries.

Business Disability Forum thanks all contributors for their time and input into this important piece of research. 

Sharing the responsibility for workplace mental health

 

Stephen Pearce looking at the camera

Stephen Pearce, Group Finance Director at Anglo American

World Mental Health Day (Thursday 10 October) was an annual reminder of the importance of looking after our mental health, and the intrinsic role that talking honestly about mental health can play to our mental wellbeing.

At Anglo American, this is a conversation which we believe should last the whole year round. Yet, despite 1 in 4 of us being affected by mental illness in our lifetimes, mental health remains a difficult and uncomfortable discussion topic, for many. Only 44 per cent of respondents to a recent survey by BITC, for example, said they would feel comfortable talking to their managers about their mental health. The problem may be even worse amongst younger employees. Over 63 per cent of those who took part in a survey carried out by Business Disability Forum, last year, said that they would not be comfortable talking about their mental health at their place of work or study.

Along with our individual circumstances and our external environment, work can be a major contributor to our mental health – both good and bad. Businesses therefore have a critical role to play in seeing mental health as a shared responsibility.

We can help to do this by creating an inclusive environment and at Anglo American we believe this must be one where everyone can bring their whole selves to work.

We know that leadership and business commitment are critical enablers to develop and sustain an environment that supports a mentally healthy workplace for everyone, and this is why internally we have put in place a significant wellbeing offering.

But we know that promoting mental wellness on its own is not enough. We also need to consider the steps we can take to prevent and respond effectively and early to mental ill-health and we have made this a key aspect of our Global Mental Health Framework.

Colleagues experiencing mental illness need the support of trained managers and HR practitioners whose actions are guided by comprehensive and informed policies. In turn, managers need to know that their own needs are being supported by leadership.

For this reason, Anglo American recently chose to partner with Business Disability Forum on the development of a series of best practice resources and guidance intended to help other organisations seeking to develop their own mental health framework.

We hope the resources will help organisations of all sizes to understand the importance of mental wellbeing and the actions they can take and should take to create a healthy workplace.

Poor mental health left unchecked can escalate, impacting on the individual, the team and the wider organisation. It therefore makes sense that promoting mental wellbeing is everyone’s business.

Find out more about the resources available here.

Stephen Pearce is Group Finance Director at Anglo American

Empowering disabled people in the workplace

According to the charity Scope more than half (56%) of businesses erroneously believe that the main reason disabled people don’t get jobs is because they lack the right skills or qualifications.

The text says: 3rd October 2019, join us for a webinar, why disability confidence makes good business sense with Asif Sadiq, Mark Lomas & Louise McQuillan

Texthelp is running a webinar on why disability confidence makes good business sense.

With this in mind, businesses need to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace to quash these misconceptions. If are you an HR or D&I professional working to create this type of workplace this webinar is for you.

Texthelp have gathered together a team of experts from the Diversity and Inclusion arena to bring you a webinar on Thursday 3 October, 12pm, focusing on how companies can gain competitive advantage by empowering disabled people in the workplace.

Asif Sadiq is Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging for The Telegraph. He was formerly the Head of Diversity and Inclusiveness for EY Financial Services and was also previously the Head of the Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Unit for the City of London Police. He is a passionate and inspirational global leader, author and key note speaker with the ability to empower individuals and create a truly inclusive environment for all.

Mark Lomas is Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at High Speed Rail 2 (HS2). He  has delivered numerous diversity and inclusion projects for organisations, including The Financial Reporting Council, Groupama Insurance, The BBC, The Law Society, Sheffield University, NHS Clinical Commissioning Group Boards, ITV, and The Bermuda Human Rights Commission. Mark recently delivered improved performance for the BBC on several employer benchmarks, following extensive analysis of BBC Employment practices and diversity impacts.

Louise McQuillan, Workplace Solutions Manager at Texthelp, specialises in helping public and private sector organisations to support workforce diversity and inclusion strategies, increase staff productivity and customer engagement.

Titled ‘Why Disability Confidence Makes Good Business Sense’ this collaborative webinar is free to attend and will engage participants in a discussion around the importance and value of driving diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Join in as the panelists take a deep dive into their own organisation’s Disability Confident  journey and share best practice alongside practical thoughts and solutions that can be used by D&I Specialists, HR professionals and business leaders, as they pursue the goal of increasing disability confidence in their organisations.

To register for this webinar please click here. If you can’t attend on the day, don’t worry, if you register you can watch it back at a later date.

The 2019 Disability-Smart Awards – submit your entry today!

Diane Lightfoot, Business Disability Forum

There’s still time to enter this year’s Disability Smart Awards – but hurry because the deadline is fast approaching!

A collage of four photos: Winners and nominees from Disability-Smart Awards 2018, as well as the audience clapping

Winners and nominees from Disability-Smart Awards 2018

 

There are many awards out there, so why do I think that the Disability-Smart Awards are so important? Well, of course, they are our awards – so I would, wouldn’t I? But in all seriousness, I believe that awards which mark the great work, commitment and achievements of our members (and non-members too; you don’t have to be a Business Disability Forum member to enter though of course we’d love you to join us!) and that’s really important in inspiring others and leading the way.

As I’ve said many times – including in these blogs – disability is too often seen as the poor relation when it comes to diversity. It is too often – still – parked in the too difficult, too sensitive, too complicated box. And too often the fear of getting things wrong means that people do – or say – nothing. But it really doesn’t have to be like that. Often the best solutions are the simplest – and often too the cheapest. Some of the greatest innovations we see around removing barriers are those that cost nothing and actually make the workplace a better place for everyone. Perhaps more importantly, disability is the only strand of diversity that can – and most likely, will – affect us all. So surely it is the one that really deserves our focus – and our celebration of when we get it right.

There is, rightly, a focus on media and social media around what doesn’t work for disabled people and issues that urgently need to be addressed if we are to achieve our goal of a truly equal and inclusive society for all. But equally I think, we need to focus on the successes and to recognising the many businesses, projects, programmes and initiatives that are truly innovating including disabled people, whether that’s in product design, as consumers, as employees, nationally or globally.

So, our Disability-Smart Awards are there to showcase amazing practice, to inspire others and to lead the way – and to recognise those businesses, teams and individuals who really have gone the extra mile and encouraging others to do the same.

We know that winning means a lot to our entrants; last year, Microsoft won the technology category last year for using cutting edge technologies to ensure their widely used products were as accessible to as many customers as possible. Hector Minto, Microsoft’s Tech Evangelist for Europe, Middle East and Africa, spoke about the impact of the Disability-Smart win at our Annual Conference in April and said:

“Winning the Disability-Smart award was very good for us, not just because of the Windows work but for what people don’t see, which is the number of employees with disabilities working as engineers on the product. It is not somebody doing something for people with disabilities, it is blind engineers, it is deaf engineers, it is people working and bringing their life experience to our product to make it better. “There is so much built into the product that empowers people routinely. But it really took the Disability Smart Award to get the message out clearly to the business world and the education world.”

And it’s not always the big companies that win – last year West Midlands Police beat stiff competition from EY and Guidant Global to win the Positive Cultural Change award, thanks to their focus on great evidence (well, they are the police…) and data – something which is often hard to come by.

Last year too, we introduced the popular Disabled People’s Choice Awards – with Liverpool Football Club as the runaway winner – and new awards for Global Leadership and for Diversity and Inclusion Practitioner. This year, we have also added new awards for Disability Smart Design, Disability Smart Influencer, Disability Smart Customer Service and Disability Smart Communications & Marketing Campaign.

The full list of categories for 2019 is:

  1. Disability Smart Senior Champion Award 2019
  2. Disability Smart Design Award (new category)
  3. Disability Smart Workplace Experience Award 2019 (sponsored by Microlink)
  4. Disability Smart Influencer Awards 2019 (new category)
  5. Disability Smart Technology for All Award 2019 (sponsored by Microlink)
  6. Disability Smart Customer Service Award 2019 (new category)
  7. Disability Smart Communications & Marketing Campaign Award 2019 (new category)
  8. Disability Smart Global Leader Award 2019
  9. Disability Smart Multinational Organisation Award 2019
  10. Disability Smart Diversity & Inclusion Practitioner Award 2019
  11. Disabled Peoples’ Choice Award 2019

You can find out all you need to know to enter here: https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/our-services/disability-smart-awards/

Entries close on 6 September and the awards ceremony which is once again being sponsored by our Founder Leader Barclays, takes place on 23 October at the Locarno Suite at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. I will once again be co-hosting alongside Paralympian Stef Reid; those who were able to join us will know just what a fabulous and entertaining host she is!

I hope that you’ll be inspired to enter this year’s awards and remember: You have to be in it to win it!

Diane Lightfoot
CEO, Business Disability Forum

Meet Disability-Smart Award Winners: Microsoft

Microsoft won the technology category at last year’s Disability-Smart Awards for using cutting edge technologies to ensure their widely used products were as accessible to as many customers as possible.

Hector Minto, Microsoft’s Tech Evangelist for Europe, Middle East and Africa, (pictured right alongside Michael Vermeersch, left), spoke about the impact of the Disability Smart win at Business Disability Forum’s Annual Conference in April.

He said: “Winning the Disability-Smart award was very good for us, not just because of the Windows work but for what people don’t see, which is the number of employees with disabilities working as engineers on the product. It is not somebody doing something for people with disabilities, it is blind engineers, it is deaf engineers, it is people working and bringing their life experience to our product to make it better.

“There is so much built into the product that empowers people routinely. But it really took the Disability Smart Award to get the message out clearly to the business world and the education world.”

Michael and Hector from Microsoft

At this year’s ceremony there are a total of 11 Awards to compete for with four completely new categories. 

Categories for the 2019 Disability-Smart Awards are as follows:

  1. Disability-Smart Senior Champion Award 2019
  2. Disability-Smart Design Award (new category)
  3. Disability-Smart Workplace Experience Award 2019 (sponsored by Microlink)
  4. Disability-Smart Influencer Awards 2019 (new category)
  5. Disability-Smart Technology for All Award 2019 (sponsored by Microlink)
  6. Disability-Smart Customer Service Award 2019 (new category)
  7. Disability-Smart Communications & Marketing Campaign Award 2019 (new category)
  8. Disability-Smart Global Leader Award 2019
  9. Disability-Smart Multinational Organisation Award 2019
  10. Disability-Smart Diversity & Inclusion Practitioner Award 2019
  11. Disabled Peoples’ Choice Award 2019

To find out more about the awards categories and how to enter, visit our awards page.

All entries must be received by 6 September 2019. Winners will be announced at the Disability Smart Awards Ceremony on 23 October 2019.

Find out how you can attend here.

Autism and your workplace  

A master in your field with incredible knowledge and passion which radiates brightly as you speak, but yet struggling with employment – or know someone who is?

Unfortunately, this is the case for many individuals on the Autistic Spectrum. In fact, 80% of adults with Autism are unemployed (UN, 2015). A barrier exists between talented individuals and the future workplace, and that barrier is the current mindset within workplace environments.

The challenge

Care and support for Autistic children is growing within the education system and it is clear that early detection and intervention are important factors for development. But what support is available for adults with Autism in the workplace?

It can be a daunting experience for anyone, leaving the education system for the ‘big, wide world of work’. That brings a mixture of nerves, uncertainty and a little excitement at new found independence. For someone with social difficulties where change and the unknown causes distress, this transition can be extremely difficult, especially in a world which doesn’t facilitate neurodiversity.

Only 3 in 10 employers include neurodiversity in their HR policies (CIPD, 2018). The processes put in place to hire and retain employees do not nurture the neurodiverse mind.

neurodiversity thought

The workplace is missing out on a spectrum of talent

Neurodiverse conditions are a part of human diversity with each making the world a more interesting and unique place to be. Those with Autism experience the world differently and offer original concepts of shared experiences.

A spectrum condition including diagnoses such as Aspergers, there are a variety of characteristics associated with Autism that can be advantageous to the workplace; heightened senses, strong eye for detail, intense concentration, ability to recognise patterns and solve problems, loyalty, strong memory, a literal mindset, logical approach and average to above average intelligence are just a few. Interestingly, individuals with Autism tend to be savants in their industry due to passionate enthusiasm around their interests.

“Autism…offers a chance for us to glimpse an awe-filled vision of the world that otherwise might pass us by” (Dr. Colin Zimbleman)

 

So, how can you be mindful of different minds?

Changing the workplace mindset means to recognise the diversity of each and every individual and be proactive in facilitating differing needs, from recruitment through to nurturing and retaining employees.

 

Recruitment and hiring

Begin by rethinking what skills are truly important for the role; the ability to make eye contact when communicating or, bringing novel ideas and a wealth of knowledge to the job? Job descriptions should be based on the actual skills required for the job and not related to generic social abilities.

During the hiring process consider ditching traditional interviews which can be difficult for individuals who struggle to communicate. Instead, offer work trials or tasks which allow potential employees the chance to demonstrate their skills. If this isn’t possible then make reasonable adjustments to aid the interview process; give the candidate the questions in advance so they have some time to process and prepare and perhaps allow an extra little bit of time for their responses.

 

Retain employees

Flexibility towards personalised working is key to nurturing employees with Autism. With a tendency to be hypersensitive, too many distractions can cause overstimulation. Provide quiet zones or noise cancelling headphones to aid a calm environment. Additionally, you can facilitate diverse ways of processing with the use of assistive technology.

Reduce anxiety and stress with structured routines; provide clear deadlines and help plan workloads by assigning time slots to tasks. Practice forward-thinking and adapt the literal mindset by being instructive; this reduces the distress caused by change and the unknown, and ensures clear expectations.

Finally, it can often be difficult for someone with Autism to express their feelings, especially if they don’t know who to turn to. Provide a support network with a dedicated ‘buddy’ and schedule weekly one to one check ins.

 

If you want to find out more about embracing neurodiversity within the workplace, download Texthelp’s Neurodiversity Guide.

 Business Disability Forum also has a Briefing for Employment adjustment for people with Autism, including Asperger Syndrome.