As we begin the next decade, I want to see more businesses take responsibility and action around how they recruit and employ disabled people.
It is simply not good enough that, according to the Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) Quarterly labour force survey: October – December 2018, a million disabled people, roughly the population size of Birmingham, are being denied the opportunity to work because they have an impairment or condition.
We cannot repeat the inertia that has taken place for more than a decade, where the UK’s disability employment gap, namely the rate at which disabled people are employed compared to non-disabled people, has remained static, with disabled people’s employment still lagging about 30 percentage points behind, according to the same ONS report.
It is time disabled people had equality and the same opportunities as non-disabled people.
That is why Virgin Media and disability charity Scope have launched the #WorkWithMe pledge, to help businesses become more inclusive employers of disabled people.
This is a free plan to help employers take accountability and receive practical advice on how to improve their workplace policies, practices and cultures. The action plan has five simple steps for businesses to follow, such as having a senior leader accountable for disability (I have this responsibility at Virgin Media), talking to disabled employees about what they need, creating disability confident managers, and tracking performance to check they are making progress.
More than 60 progressive organisations have signed up to the pledge, including Ford, JCB and Phillips.
At Virgin Media, we ourselves are beginning to see the positive results of the steps we have taken over the past two years to become a better employer of disabled people. This includes having board-level accountability for disability, updated HR policies, providing new training for managers and front-line staff, and streamlining workplace adjustments.
In my experience, once you start having conversations around disability employment and get past any awkwardness you may feel about the topic, you can start to have open and honest conversations about what your disabled employees and disabled customers need. This will help create a disability confident workforce.
I believe this action will help support more disabled people into work and, in turn, help to close the disability pay gap.
Jeff Dodds is chief operating officer at Virgin Media