The great big workplace adjustments survey: now open!

By Angela Matthews, Head of Policy and Advice

Reasonable adjustments. Workplace Adjustments. Workplace support. Supporting you at work. Working in a different way. Being you.

All are terms commonly used by organisations to describe how they remove barriers for employees at work. The language is important. The process behind the language is even more important. But getting experience of both right is crucial.

It’s crucial for a number of reasons. At legal compliance level, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments where they know or could reasonably be expected to know that an employee has a disability or long-term condition. At good practice level, employers want to ensure all employees can work in a different way whether or not the employee says they have a disability or condition. At leading practice level, workplace campaigns and communications focus on how enabling employees to work in different ways is integral to workplace diversity and allowing people to simply ‘be themselves’.

Male colleagues discussing using a tablet

Here at Business Disability Forum, our advisers advise people managers and departmental leaders every day on adjustments policies and related employee caseloads. Many of our consultants are commissioned to work with businesses on improving their adjustments processes; and almost all of our policy work comes back to how Government, employers, and public life in general removes barriers for individuals. Get a service provider’s or employer’s workplace adjustments processes robustly designed and defined in a way that suits who the business are, how they work, and what they need, and that organisation is well on its way to delivering an inclusive pan-diversity employee experience that meets the needs of every single employee, whatever they are going through in their lives, and at whatever stage in their career.

Yet, anyone keeping an eye on HR press or employment case law can see the adjustments processes employers have and continue to invest in are continuing to fail them and cost them greatly – both financially and reputationally.

And so we want to find out what works, what doesn’t, what managers love, and what employees loathe. This is why we have released The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey which will grasp a picture of how both employees and managers across the UK feel about adjustments, how they are discussed in the workplace, how effective they are, and how far everyone who needs adjustments actually have them in place.

Whether you are an employee, a manager, or someone else managing people and processes in your organisation, we are asking you to share your experiences of requesting and getting adjustments, or arranging and providing them for the people you manage.

You can complete the survey here.

Please share it with your colleagues, managers, and employee networks. The survey closes on Monday 8 April 2019 at 8am. Please do get in touch if you would like to complete the survey in a different way (email: policy@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk).

We’re looking forward to hearing what adjustments in an ever changing workforce are helping and hindering you, your managers, and your leaders to do and to be.

Why being disability-smart means delivering for every customer

Welcoming disabled customers guide and a Legoland coaster

Welcoming disabled customers guide

By Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum

The most successful businesses are known not just for their products or services or their competitiveness on price but for their customer service – and this means excellent customer service for every customer.

But disabled consumers far too often still experience poor customer service. This usually isn’t because businesses don’t want disabled customers or even that customer facing staff don’t want to serve disabled customers, but is often because of fear; fear of saying or doing the wrong thing and giving offence which means that customer facing staff too often say or do nothing.

The good news is that businesses who instill the confidence in their people to be “disability smart” and to ask how to best serve all their customers stand to reap considerable business benefits.

Back in 2014, the Extra Costs Commission 2014 asked 2,500 disabled people whether they had left a shop or business because of poor disability awareness or understanding and 75% said that they had. This figure rises to around 80% for people with a memory impairment, autism or a learning disability. Within that 75% headline figure, seven out of ten (70%) had left a high street shop, half (50%) had left a restaurant, pub or club, and a quarter (27%) had left a supermarket.

As well as being the wrong thing ethically and morally, it also makes no sense for businesses, financially. The spending power of disabled people and their friends and families – also known as the Purple Pound – is huge and currently estimated at £249bn per year in the UK alone. And from that same survey, the Extra Costs Commission estimated that the 8.4 million people in the UK who “walk away” were losing British Business around £1.8 billion per month. It’s not just about disabled people either; Millennials – and all of us – are increasingly making ethical and values-based choices on where we spend our time and money. So, I believe that getting it right and providing brilliant service for disabled customers can actually become a USP.

The encouraging news is that businesses are finally waking up to this. The #Valuable campaign and the launch of the #Valuable500 at the World Economic Forum in January this year is all about the power of disability at brand level and the importance of including disabled people in products and services, right from the design stage. #Valuable500 aims to get disability on the agenda at board level in 500 – or more! – global companies and Virgin Media, Unilever, Microsoft and Barclays have already signed up. So how can you follow in their footsteps?

Just last week, with the support of our Member Merlin Entertainments plc, we were delighted to launch our new ‘Welcoming Disabled Customers’ guide at Legoland Windsor, to help every business provide brilliant service to disabled customers. Designed as a simple reference tool, it aims to give confidence to customer-facing staff with really practical and simple hints and tips.

Diane and a Lego model

Diane Lightfoot (right) and a Lego model

It’s split into sections so that it’s easily digestible and can be used as a quick reference guide when needed. It starts with practical tips on how to support customers with different types of impairments, for example, how best to guide a customer with a visual impairment up or down stairs, plus helpful information on etiquette, for example, that someone’s wheelchair is part of their personal space.

As anyone who has heard me speak knows (!), one of the stats I like to use is that over 90% of disabilities are not immediately visible. So, it’s likely that for a large proportion of the time, customer facing staff may not know that a customer is disabled. So, the second part of the guide gives general advice and things to think about and to be aware of, like being clear when communicating, not using confusing language or simply taking time to ask what someone needs: “how can I help you?” really can go a long way! In this way, we hope that the guide will have the added benefit of making customer facing colleagues better at serving every customer because if you can get it right for disabled customers you get it right for everyone.

Legoland Hotel, Windsor

Legoland Hotel, Windsor

It was great to see this ethos put into practice at our Legoland launch where the commitment to getting it right for disabled customers was obvious in every staff member. We heard some really moving stories from parents whose disabled child had been able to be “just another child” in their experience of Legoland and from the Legoland team whose passion for opening up as many attractions to as many people as possible was so apparent. We had the privilege of seeing not only the different options for accessible bedrooms in the hotel – we visited the “adventure” themed floor and it was great to see the different options available – as well as surely the funkiest Changing Places toilet ever and a very peaceful and beautiful sensory centre to enable everyone to enjoy the delights of Denmark’s greatest export (it’s something to build on). The fun setting (yes, we all had our photo taken with Lego sculptures and more!) didn’t detract from the fact that Merlin Entertainments plc are very keen to keep on improving in taking customer service for people with all kinds of conditions and disabilities seriously.

With World Consumer Rights Day on Friday (15 March) and Disability Access Day on Saturday (16 March), the spotlight is firmly on customer service delivery, this week. But, let’s ensure that it doesn’t stop there. Meeting the needs of all customers is something which businesses should be doing every day of the year. If you would like to know more, then why not get in touch to find out how we can help?

To learn more about being disability-smart, contact our membership team

Email David Goodchild, our Executive Director of Membership & Business Development

Diane Lightfoot

CEO, Business Disability Forum

Men and mental health: What do you think?

Man with his head in his hands

Parliament’s Equalities Committee is looking at the issues that specifically affect men’s mental health. They are doing this because statistics continue to show:

  • 75 per cent of people who die by suicide are men (this is also the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 50 in England and Wales);
  • 13 per cent of men have a mental health conditions;
  • Men are more likely to become alcohol dependent than women;
  • GP data shows that, for 11-12 per cent of men, the last time they visited their GP was because of continued feelings of stress, pressure or sadness.

Business Disability Forum are responding to this consultation and would like to hear from you have you have any views on the following:

  • What are the most pressing issues affecting men’s mental health and how/why does this differ to the wider population?
  • How does gender stereotyping in society and the media, parent/fatherhood, relationship and finances affect the mental health of men?
  • What should be done (by Government, NHS, local authorities, for example) to improve men’s mental health?
  • What are the specific issues related to men’s mental health in the workplace?

How to share your views with us

We understand this topic might potentially be upsetting or difficult for some people who wish to respond. We’d therefore ask you to consider carefully if you would like to respond and, if so, the most comfortable way for you to do so. You can use the following methods to share your thoughts with us:

The deadline for contributions is Thursday 31 January 2019.

Privacy and confidentiality

All contributions, both written and non-written, to this inquiry will be kept entirely confidential. Only our Head of Policy (Angela Matthews) has access to the policy email inbox during this inquiry for this purpose. We will not name individuals in our response, and we will only name businesses who contribute if they request us to do so.

If you have any questions, please contact Angela on policy@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk

Are you a small or medium-sized business? Let’s talk!

Small business

We have been considering what a package of support could look like for small and medium sized businesses with under 250 employees (SMEs). Before we go any further we would like to hear from SME businesses themselves about the type of information and support they would value the most from us.

Why is disability important for businesses?

There are over 26 million people in the UK with a disability or long-term condition. They already impact on your business: they are your customers, your employees, your suppliers and your stakeholders.

  • Your customers: The ‘Purple Pound’ is now often referred to as the potential spending power of disabled people. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reports that households with a disabled person have a combined income of £249 billion after housing costs. There is evidence to show people with disabilities are often ‘repeat’ customers when they get the service and products that meets their personalised needs.
  • Your employees: All businesses need to remove barriers to employment and career progression to ensure they are recruiting from the widest pool of talent available. They should also observe best practice in terms of support, retention and progression of all their staff, including those with disabilities and long term conditions.


What do we need from the research?

This is a piece of developmental research and not a sales call. This is an exciting project for Business Disability Forum and any help you can give us in terms of ideas for further development will be greatly appreciated.

Ideally we would like to speak to someone in a senior managerial position in your organisation with responsibility for your employees or general business development for 30 minutes over the phone. Karen Cutts, Research and Insights Manager at Business Disability Forum,  will be undertaking the interviews as tele-depths. We can schedule the interview at a time that suits you.

If you are happy to help us please contact Business Disability Forum directly on the email address below to say you have opted in to the research. We will then select a number of businesses to take part and be in touch to set up a time and give more details.

Telephone Karen Cutts on: 020 7089 2482

Email: policy@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk

All your comments will remain anonymous and you will not be identified in any way in the data or report. The report will be for internal use only at Business Disability Forum and their stakeholders who are helping fund and build this service.

We are hoping that interviews would be completed between now and mid-January.

If you have any immediate questions relating to the project please do not hesitate to contact us using the details above.