03 March 2016
Bridging the disability employment gap
From education support to workplace accommodation
The UK is currently enjoying the lowest jobless rate in a decade at just 5.1% - this is great news for the country which should mean that everyone has a little more in their pockets. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, according to the Government’s manifesto at the last election.
However, although the overall employment rate is at an all time high, the disability employment gap is still clear and present, and questions need to be asked.
Why does the employment rate gap between those with and without disabilities remain largely unchanged at over 30% over the past few years? And what can be done about it?
As part of the government’s Disability Confident campaign the ambitious target was set to halve the disability jobless rate. However, a recent survey by Mencap revealed that only 16% of UK employers felt confident that this is achievable.
The lack of awareness amongst employers of what’s involved in employing and supporting disabled employees is clearly a contributing factor. Nearly half (46%) of those surveyed expressed concern that recruiting people with learning disabilities will involve extra work and be an additional burden on the organisation.
The time has come for a rethink of disability employment. Corporate UK need to stop viewing it as an exercise in CSR and refocus on the significant benefits diversity in the workplace can bring to an organisation.
The vast majority of companies employing staff with disabilities report they not only gain a valuable member of staff, but also that their working environment improves as a result. There is also evidence of higher retention rates with disabled employees, and lasting commercial benefits from the perception of better customer service.
Mencap reports that around 65% of adults with learning disabilities want to work, yet just 7% have been able to find paid employment. We need to refocus on the unique benefits people with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, can bring to an organisation.
Dyslexic thinkers are usually creative and innovative problem-solvers, with a unique ability to see the ‘bigger picture’ in business. This is evidenced in the fact that 60% of UK self made millionaires have dyslexia.
Clearly there is much to be done to raise awareness within corporate UK about the benefits of employing staff with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Yes, provisions will need to be put in place to support these staff, but that needn’t be onerous.
Assistive technology can overcome many of the issues and ensure that staff with learning disabilities experience the same opportunities as everyone else - this is the motivation that drives Texthelp to develop our range of support technologies.
Texthelp recognises that, in order to provide adults in the workplace with the best opportunities, we need to address reading and writing skills before the transition from education to the workplace if possible. By supporting literacy and learning challenges that people face from an early age in school, we can help them develop effective, lifelong skills - long before they have even thought about their future career.
By putting these supports in place, people with learning disabilities can journey through school more confident in their abilities, and make the transition to the workplace a smoother, more certain crossing. And by ensuring the same level of support exists within the workplace, we enable individuals to reach job opportunities as more able and more confident employees, to thrive in their chosen careers - and make a recognisable and positive contribution to the organisation.