Employee Benefits Live 2022: Disability in the workplace discussions are more prominent these days, but there is still a long way to go, said journalist, TV presenter and comedian Alex Brooker.
Brooker’s keynote, titled ‘Breaking down barriers – from journalist to accidental celebrity’ closed the first day of Employee Benefits Live 2022 on Wednesday 5 October. He explained in a fireside chat with Employee Benefits editor Debbie Lovewell-Tuck, that he never really saw disabled people on TV when growing up, so seized the opportunity to apply for a role at Channel 4 when it arose.
“TV and Hollywood have a long way to go; disabled people aren’t represented enough in either. Disabled people are by far the biggest minority group and we’re not pushed into TV enough. Change, if meaningful, can take time,” he said.
He has faced various challenges in the workplace over the course of his career, initially experiencing panic attacks before going on live TV and interviewing previous prime ministers, but has received great support from his bosses, executive producers and colleagues.
Brooker explained that he believes the best person applying for a role should get it, regardless of whether they have a disability or not.
“However, there should be more of a conscious push to get more disabled people into the workplace and disability shouldn’t come into the recruitment process. Employee welfare shouldn’t be exclusive to disabled people either; it’s important to have an atmosphere where you can talk to an employer if needed,” he said.
Remote working, which became more prevalent as a result of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic can help disabled people to work if they are unable to access the workplace in person, Brooker commented, but he also wondered if some of the interviews disabled people secure when job hunting actually lead to employment and were just ticking a box.
The Last Leg, the Channel 4 TV show that Brooker co-presents, feels a responsibility to discuss disability issues prominent in today’s society, with him having to educate himself on some issues. He concluded that he has learnt that while people should always ask their employers for help if they need, it does work both ways, and businesses should do their level best to accommodate disabled people in the workplace.