Disability Confident?

Liz Esler, CILNI Deputy Chief Exectutive tells us about the Disability Confident scheme designed to encourage employers to recruit and retain disabled people:

Before joining the team at Centre for Independent Living NI (CILNI) in December, I don’t believe I really had a true understanding of disability in the workplace. I have the pleasure of working with several people within the CILNI team who face physical challenges in their lives, Most of the time I see the person not the disability, so when I stop to consider the barriers that they face, I find myself in awe of their resolve, determination and creativity in navigating the working world.

I am proud to be part of an organisation like CILNI that works to promote the principles of independent living and as such, we support the premise of employment opportunities for all, ensuring that disabled people and those with long term health conditions have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and realise their ambitions and aspirations.

When visiting Naidex in March, the disability and independent living event at the NEC in Birmingham, I listened to a speaker called Jane Hatton who talked about what makes disabled people such fantastic employees. Jane is the founder of Evenbreak, a job board that matches employers with disabled candidates. She talked about the sound business reasons for employing disabled people, never mind the ethics of being an inclusive employer. She made me reflect on the brilliant team that we have at CILNI and wonder why any organisation would not want to increase the number of high quality applicants for their roles, create a workforce that reflects society and its customers, and bring additional skills to the organisation.

Jane described the research that has shown that disabled employees are, on average, at least as productive as non-disabled colleagues, have less time off sick, have fewer workplace accidents, and tend to stay in jobs longer. So if you want loyal, productive staff who save you money in terms of retention, you need to be attracting disabled staff. Employing disabled people is not a tick in a box to meet legal responsibilities, nor a charitable act. Employing disabled people makes sound business sense.

We have recently become a Disability Confident Committed employer under the Department for Work and Pensions Disability Confident Scheme. CILNI would like to play a role in changing attitudes for the better, beginning with an audit of our own organisational practice and then working to become a Disability Confident Leader, acting as a champion to encourage other organisations to become Disability Confident Employers.

The audit we are undertaking has encouraged me to analyse our own human resource practices and how we support and develop all of our staff. I look forward to improving our own practices. But I also believe that we can do more. We can and should be encouraging others. For example, our suppliers, other third sector organisations, the private and public sector partners that we work with. They could be missing out on a wealth of skills from a those who bring commitment, talent, resolve, creativity and determination to the workplace.