How can I provide better support to disabled staff?

Peninsula Team

December 17 2018

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) have released a practical guide for employers on recruiting, managing and retaining staff with a disability or health condition. With this in mind, there are some simple steps you can take to provide better support to disabled staff in your organisation.

When it comes to recruitment, you are encouraged to make it clear to potential applicants from the outset that your organisation is committed to inclusion and diversity, making reference to this in job advertisements and person specifications. In a similar vein, you could consider signing up to the government’s Disability Confident scheme, which looks to support employers in making the most of the talents of disabled workers, and promote this fact to potential applicants.

Whilst you should generally refrain from asking applicants unnecessary questions about any disabilities or medical conditions, employers are allowed to ask candidates if they require any reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process. Adjustments will depend on the individual in question but could include support during any online tests or ensuring that interview rooms are wheelchair accessible. In most instances making reasonable adjustments will be straightforward and come with little financial cost, however these efforts can be a significant benefit to disabled individuals.

Regarding the interview process itself, unconscious bias can unfortunately impact how employees with disabilities are perceived in comparison to other applicants. To prevent this from occurring, you are advised to train all staff on the dangers of unconscious bias whilst also ensuring interviewers are equipped with pre-determined checklists to ensure hiring decisions are based solely on an individual’s skills and experience.

According to the guidance produced by the DWP and CIPD, half of disabled employees state reasonable adjustments are the most important factor in helping them to remain in work. Therefore, it is essential that you consider appropriate changes to the working environment, or to the way work is carried out, so that someone with a disability can do their job more effectively. Adjustments can include a flexible working arrangement, such as allowing staff to work from home, or providing extra equipment such as a specially designed chairs. It is important that HR personnel keep a full record of any adjustments as this information can be passed on to an individual’s new line manager and ensure continuity should their role within your organisation change in the future.

Having an effective framework in place to support those who may require a period off work due to a disability is also important in retaining skilled staff. Whilst you are legally required to pay statutory sick pay to those who meet the eligibility requirements, offering enhanced occupational sick pay could provide additional financial support to disabled staff during periods of sickness. As best practice, when individuals return to work following a period of disability related sickness you should consider a ‘phased return’. This will typically involve individual’s working hours being reduced to enable them to settle back into the working routine. You are also advised to hold a discussion with returning staff to uncover if there is anything further you can do to improve their condition, including re-designing their job role or work duties.

Whilst there are of course additional measures you can take to support disabled staff in your organisation, the above represents several simple and straightforward methods which can make an immediate difference to your organisation.

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