Tackling inequity for disabled jobseekers

Northumberland Gazette latest
Northumberland Gazette latest

Almost half of businesses in the North East are apprehensive about hiring someone with a disability because of fears they won’t be able to do the job and concerns about making inappropriate comments or actions, according to new research.

The findings were revealed as part of a survey of 1,000 businesses to coincide with the launch of Purple – a new not-for-profit organisation which goes live today – dedicated to improving employment opportunities for disabled people by supporting both business and individual.

The organisation offers both consultancy and recruitment services to help businesses drive inclusive employment strategies, while providing disabled people with greater levels of employment support.

Purple aims to help more than 20,000 disabled people to find permanent jobs over the next decade, while simultaneously matching 25,000 personal assistants to disabled employers.

It carried out the research to determine the current barriers for business in employing disabled workers and found that one in five business owners and hiring managers (22 per cent) admit they are worried about interviewing someone with a disability in case they do or say the wrong thing.

Fears include using the incorrect terminology (32 per cent) and not knowing whether they should help with things such as opening doors or pulling out chairs (38 per cent). One in five employers (21 per cent) said falling foul of discrimination law was a real concern.

The findings also revealed almost half of all employers (43 per cent) expect disabilities to be disclosed on an applicant’s CV prior to interview, despite there being no legal obligation to do so.

Disabled people already fall significantly behind the rest of the population when it comes to the majority of wellbeing standards. Of the UK’s 11.5 million disabled people, just 11 per cent are currently in work, compared to 80 per cent of non-disabled people.

Daily living costs are on average 25 per cent higher than for non-disabled people and disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty.

According to Purple, this latest research suggests misconceptions and prejudices are preventing disabled people from finding employment, with many being squeezed out of the job market at the first hurdle, regardless of professional ability.

Chief executive of Purple, Mike Adams, said: “We’ve always known that being disabled means you’re more likely to be unemployed and this has a real impact on both the career opportunities and quality of life. What this latest research tells us is that in fact it isn’t disability that’s the barrier to finding employment, but the worries and misconceptions of business owners themselves. This isn’t just a barrier for disabled people, but for many businesses missing out on valuable employee skills and talent, as well as powerful consumer opportunity.

“With Purple, we are taking a new, brave and bold approach to the problem. We want to work with business to address concerns while upskilling individuals to seize the opportunities available. We will give business and individual an equal voice and by not being afraid to tackle the issues on both sides, we will change the conversation on disability employment.”