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Disability Confident - Working towards a truly inclusive workplace.

By Pamela Branchett - HR Manager

Diversity in the workplace is so important. It’s about valuing everyone in the business as an individual, where everyone feels able to participate and achieve their potential.

We already know in the UK, it is against the law to discriminate against someone because of a protected characteristic. So as a business we must have an effective Diversity & Inclusion plan that goes beyond legal compliance.

That’s why when we heard about Disability Confident we needed to be involved. I wanted to ensure that attitudes within the business changed, that we began thinking differently about disability and the steps we could take to improve how we attract diverse people to our company. Our representation was poor, which we needed to address, we have made some in roads but we are not there yet and have many challenges to address. Like many companies we were short sighted when it came to disability.

I started my research around Disability Confident, a scheme developed by employers and disabled people to make equal employment opportunities easily accessible. If I’m honest, even I was educated, not really appreciating the talents disabled people could bring to our workplace. We created an internal forum to set about challenging attitudes, increasing understanding of disability (at all levels), and removing barriers to ensure we could provide those opportunities.

In connecting with the Education People we were matched with a client to offer work experience, and what a remarkable experience this was. As a HR Manager, it really opened my eyes to the support, dynamics and education a person living with disability could give us. the client from the Education People was loyal, skilled and hardworking. We watched him grow immensely from his first day; his presence shone through in the behaviours of other staff members. I and others gained so much.

As HR Manager I would urge other companies and managers to get involved with Disability Confident. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to improve your awareness and knowledge within your own businesses.

There are so many misconceptions and prejudices around disability, for example;

  • All those who use wheelchairs are chronically ill or sick.

  • People with disabilities always need help.

  • The lives of people with disabilities are totally different than the lives of people without disabilities.

These statements are so far from the truth, and greater education is required, in fact when you read these back and give them real thought you can most certainly challenge yourself and actually find yourself rethinking the statements that remove your own prejudices.

Change can most certainly come about by challenging behaviours and attitudes, raising awareness, education and bringing disability into your business. Like us, build inclusion and diversity into training courses, add objectives to job descriptions and performance reviews, to increase awareness of the need to handle different views, perceptions and ideas in positive ways.

In conclusion why wouldn’t you want to expand your talent pool, attract skilled, loyal and hardworking people? Educating staff on the benefits, communicating the importance diversity and inclusion can bring, providing a clear message to all employees that we will treat all employees fairly.

Start your research and challenge behaviours to discover someone your business just can’t do without.

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