Construction and agriculture equipment manufacturer JCB, telephone, television and internet service provider Virgin Media, and technology organisation Philips are among the first employers to sign a new pledge to decrease the UK’s disability employment gap.
The #WorkWithMe pledge was launched by Virgin Media and disability equality charity Scope on 8 May 2019 and has so far seen 20 organisations make the commitment. Other employers on the list of initial pledges include Earth Island Publishing, Cerealto UK, London School of Theology, Kreative Recruitment and Clares Office Supplies.
The pledge outlines a five-step plan for businesses looking to boost diversity and take advantage of the pool of talent represented by disabled people currently willing but unable to work. Organisations that take the pledge will be able to access practical advice on how to improve workplace policies and cultures.
The key steps outlined for employers are: senior accountability, a holistic review of how the organisation supports disabled people, helping line managers become confident about supporting disabled employees, recording progress, and sharing best practice.
Organisations that sign will also receive a suite of resources based on first-hand experiences from peers of employing disabled people; this will include guides for managers around how to talk confidently about disability and hold accessible meetings.
Jeff Dodds, managing director at Virgin Media, said: “It feels like time has stood still for disabled people in the UK. [Organisations] big and small now need to come together to help put an end to this disability employment crisis.
“I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of working with disabled people and I want other businesses to see them too. So my ask is for [employers] now to come together and sign the #WorkWithMe pledge and commit to transforming how they recruit disabled people.”
Mark Hodgkinson, chief executive at Scope, said: “Disabled people often get a rough deal getting into and staying in work. Far too many struggle to get into work, and too many fall out because they don’t get the support they need to thrive. There are pockets of good practice in large, medium and small [organisations] all over this country, that we need to champion, but too many fall short.
“Both government and businesses have an urgent need to address the disability employment crisis. The pledge gives [employers] the tools they need to start making everyday equality in the workplace a reality for disabled people.”
Jonathan Coles, head of HR at Philips UKI, said: “We strongly believe in building inclusive and richly diverse teams that attract the UK’s most sought after talent.
“We believe organisations can and should do more to share best practices about how to integrate talent regardless of physical, mental or learning abilities. Although we are constantly looking for ways to improve our own programmes, we also hope that some of what we have already implemented can help set an example for others.”