Following on from my blog in September on ageism, I’d like to focus on diversity issues with regards to disability. In my ageism blog I talked about unconscious bias and how now there is more of awareness of this and that more individuals that recruit have had training in this area.
I also talked about mindset and diversity. This is where if you identify that you have a fear about being discriminating against, paying attention to reframing your fears can be helpful. This is true for each of the nine protected characteristics that come under the 2010 Equality Act, disability being one of these.
The Equality Act 2010 states that employers have a duty to make adjustments in the workplace for people with disabilities. They also have a legal duty to avoid unlawful discrimination, whether direct or indirect. There are only a few roles e.g. in medicine, where you may need to fulfil the professional bodies’ criteria of professional fitness in order to go into a role. Even here, those with disabilities can go on to achieve success in their career (for example, a few years ago in one of my career planning workshops, I met a doctor in training who was in a wheelchair).
Diversity and unlocking benefits for organisations
Most medium to large organisations will have clients with disabilities. Having diversity in its employees will enable an organisation to build rapport with its customers. This is one of the many reasons for an organisation to recruit a diverse workforce. There are many advantages for organisations to encourage more disabled workers. Here are just a few of them:
- Empathy – you’ll have experienced difficulties in your life. Therefore, when a client comes to you with a problem, you should have this quality in abundance.
- Resilience – having been through tough times and life’s struggles, you’ll have gained the ability to bounce-back and come back stronger. Employers will really appreciate this.
- Neurodiversity, for example, has had a lot of positive attention recently. A different way of thinking (e.g. an ability with numbers or abstract details) is a skill many employers will value.
Therefore, if you are disabled and are looking for a job:
- Be really positive about your strengths. Know what these are and then you’ll be able to market yourself well.
- Provide examples of your achievements.
- Set yourself SMART goals and make sure they are achievable (the A in SMART). Therefore, start small and don’t overload yourself, as this can cause you to feel that you are failing. Reward yourself for getting stuff done. For example, each time you complete an application form, give yourself a pat on the back.
- Have a mindset of being kind to yourself. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend.
- Try not to over-identify yourself as disabled. You are a person who suffers from a disability, you are not that disability. This is the difference between saying ‘I am a person with mobility problems’, or ‘I am a person suffering with X disability’; this is better than saying ‘I have mobility problems’, or ‘I have X disability’. So, therefore you are distancing or dis-identifying to a certain degree from that disability. The language you use is important, so watch your own self-talk. This follows on from being kind to yourself.
- When talking to employers, make suggestions of reasonable adjustments. If you can make your own positive contribution to answering some of the questions around these, this will help the employer envisage how they can more easily make these adjustments.
There are thousands of organisations that have a supportive attitude towards disability.
Help for those with a disability
Many charities have a key focus on raising awareness and providing assistance to people with disabilities. Individual charities provide support for people who have a specific need, e.g. Arthritis Research Council, the Autistic Society. They are worth getting in touch with for advice/support for life in general and they can help with advice about getting employment.
There are many organisations that provide specific support for getting work and some examples are listed below:
The disability confident scheme
There’s also the disability confident scheme and you can check out whether an organisation that you would like to work for has signed up for it. This information can be found on the government site here: https://www.gov.uk/recruitment-disabled-people
Whether or not to declare a disability
When going for a role for those with a disability, there’s also the decision to be made about whether or not to declare it. An employer cannot ask about a disability or health condition, unless to decide if support with reasonable adjustments are needed, to the increase number of disabled employees or for matters of national security.
When going for a job, if you have a disability, you will need to decide whether to declare this at the application stage. If you declare early, for those organisations on the disability confident scheme, then as long as you make the essential criteria, you will be chosen for interview. Below are some arguments for and against declaring early:
Arguments for declaring:
- If necessary adjustments need to be made for the interview.
- If you declare your disability before the interview stage, then as long as you meet all the essential criteria, you should be interviewed.
- It may be useful to explain any gaps or potential ‘deficits’.
- You may prefer to find out early if an employer is not open to employing disabled candidates.
Argument for not declaring early:
- You may not have scored as highly at the application stage as others who are not declaring a disability, as there will only usually be a set number of people interviewed for the job. Therefore, there’s an argument not to declare if you want to apply and be marked on the merits of your application form (and hence experience).
If you do not declare the disability either before or after the interview, then you can wait until the organisation gives you an occupational health check. Here you will be asked several questions and it’s important to be honest about any of your health issues.
Adjustments that can be made in the workplace
Once in the role, these are some examples of the adjustments that can be made:
- Funding for aid and equipment in your workplace
- Equipment can be adapted to make it easier for you to use
- Money towards extra travel costs to and from work if you can’t use available public transport, or if you need to adapt your vehicle.
- Changing the working hours
- An interpreter or other support at a job interview if you have difficulty communicating
- Other practical help at work, such as job coach or a note taker or lip speaker.
Further legal rights for those with a disability
Right to confidentiality
You will be protected under the Data Protection Act 2018. (The Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)).
Losing your job
Disclosing shouldn’t result in termination of a job or offer being withdrawn. Note though, whilst not obliged to disclose, a person has to be honest on medical forms.
It’s good to be fully aware of your rights and to present yourself positively. It may take a while to find a role that best fits with your needs and that supports you. Personal resilience will be key here.
I work with people from all backgrounds and can help anyone with a disability to find the right job. You can get in touch with me for a free 20 minute phone call to discuss what you’d like to achieve and how career coaching can help you, via the ‘contact’ page, top right.