HR and disability – the business case

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Over many years HR’s role in organisations has changed with many practitioners becoming ‘business partners’ and ‘advisers’ with more and more responsibilities being transferred down the line to managers. This in many ways may well be a good idea but some issues struggle to be addressed in this approach. Disability issues often suffer because addressing these seems to be challenging for many managers and perceptions play a big part in how they are addressed. Also it can mean that the wider issues about managing disability at a strategic level don’t really get resolved.

What’s the issue?

  • Dealing with disability is more complex for all sorts of reasons than many other employment and management issues.
  • At best, in many organisations the issues around disability are dealt with as a ‘bolt-on’ issue which is not really to do with organisational success.
  • Irrespective of the HR approach used in organisations, there is a key role in the way disability is managed at a strategic level and HR would seem best placed to tackle it.
  • It is also worth bearing in mind that if this is only dealt with as an employment issue the organisation is missing a trick as there is a proven and direct link between employing disabled people and having a successful relationship with them (and their families) as customers and service users - the better at the former, the better at the latter. They are in fact directly and inextricably linked and move this whole agenda into a direct business issue.
  • Whilst HR only usually have concerns directly relating to employment there needs to be an organisational mind shift to ensure that the whole issue of disability is dealt with holistically - who better to do that than HR?

Disability Confidence

  • The Employers Forum on Disability (EFD) has developed a strategic approach to managing disability – ‘Disability Confidence’ - which enables organisations to develop a holistic approach and ensure it is based on the business case.
  • A disability confident organisation:
  1. understands how disability affects every aspect of its business, e.g. PR, marketing, facilities management, IT, health and safety etc and  these groups  understand the wider issues for markets, communities, suppliers and key stakeholders
  2. creates a culture of inclusion and removes barriers for groups of disabled people, e.g. disabled people can apply for a job on line, spend their money with the organisation, get an adjustment readily, etc
  3. makes adjustments that enable specific individuals to contribute - as employees, customers, partners and valued stakeholders
  4. does not make assumptions about what people can do on the basis of their condition or disability
  • Many organisations assume that accommodating disabled people is a costly exercise; in fact it is quite the opposite – it is essential to business success.
  • Anticipating the needs of disabled people by developing Disability Confidence will see gains across all parts of an organisation. By building Disability Confidence an organisation will profit from an ageing population, the needs of the individual, changing working patterns and enabling technology. They will also become a better employer or service provider and reduce the organisation's risk of litigation under the Equality Act.

HR’s role

  • To become a Disability Confident organisation someone has to take the lead in the first instance. HR is well placed to do this and the first stage would be for them to assess their organisation’s performance against the 4 key indicators above.
  • Having done so, they can then facilitate the development of a strategic plan aimed at improving their performance in these areas. Activities which help in this would include:
    • appointing a senior level champion to drive the issue forward at Board level
    • developing a business case which helps staff understand why this is important to the organisation and not just being a ‘nice to do’ or ‘flavour of the month’
    • briefing staff on the issues and what is expected of them
    • giving staff the knowledge and skills needed in this area
    • holding staff accountable for their part in achieving Disability Confidence
    • publicising  successes
    • reviewing policies and procedures to remove barriers – and not just HR ones
    • establishing a disabled staff network and using its expertise to address issues and identify and remove barriers for employees, customers and service users
    • undertaking staff surveys to explore in more detail the barriers and perceptions of staff – both non-disabled and disabled

The deliverable benefits

  • Without taking a strategic approach it will be difficult for employers successfully to deal with disability-related issues - ‘business as usual’ will mean that many opportunities will be missed.
  • Over the years there have been many examples of how Disability Confidence has benefited organisations:
    • There are a significant number of call centres which actively recruit disabled people as the evidence suggests that this will reduce staff turnover which is a major cost. But to do this they need to go further than simply putting the ‘We welcome applications from ... .’ statement on their adverts. A recent targeted recruitment exercise using proactive contacts in the community and radio adverts identified over 60 disabled people who were not on anyone’s radar as looking for work and who only applied for the jobs because it was advertised proactively – they had given up using the regular approaches. The call centre employed 18 of these applicants and 17 of them are still working there over 2 years later.
    • A well known on-line supermarket chain has ensured its delivery website is fully accessible and usable for disabled people where many of their competitors’ websites are difficult if not impossible to use for this group. Guess who gets the business? And with an ageing population with ageing-related impairments this is becoming increasingly important.
    • One of the mobile phone providers will give a free text-to-speech software package when customers take out a contract to those people who can’t read a phone’s screen. Such packages can cost up to £250 if you buy them yourselves – guess which is the company that disabled people use who need such technology?
    • One of the High Street banks has developed a centralised system of assessing people for adjustments and ensuring their provision within tight deadlines. This has been used by 500 employees since its introduction and has enabled significant numbers of staff to return from long-term sick leave and avoided many early ill-health retirements.
  • It can be seen some of these examples are about customers and typically nothing to do with HR.
  • However it is to do with Disability confidence and by taking the lead HR can play a major role in business success. This is underlined by the fact that there is a proven link between employing disabled people and serving them successfully as customers.
  • Given the numbers of disabled people and potential customers involved, this can only be a good thing. Unless HR takes the lead in developing Disability Confidence it is unlikely or at least harder for others to do so.
  • One final question - ‘Can you afford not to be Disability Confident?’. If so, then someone needs to take the lead!



# SayedSer 2017-09-05 05:33
# SayedSer 2017-09-29 07:09
# ThomasDox 2017-10-09 13:08
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