It’s time to close the shockingly large employment gap for people with disabilities
A group of disability organizations, labor unions, charities and academics said there is “a pressing need for stronger government action” when it comes to employing people. with disabilities.
Well, no kidding. There may be labor shortages throughout the economy, but people with disabilities still cannot be hired. By scope, the employment gap of people with disabilities – the difference in employment rates between workers with disabilities and other workers – currently stands at 28.4 percentage points. Which is terribly bad.
Far from being content to rail against the point – which would be quite justified given that it is in territory “tainted with the conscience of the nation” – the actors have on the contrary proposed a recipe for improving things.
It takes the form of a ‘Disability Employment Charter’ outlining the steps they believe government and employers should take to address the disadvantages faced by people with disabilities in UK workplaces.
Among other things, it calls on the former to “increase workforce transparency by forcing large employers to publish annual data on the number of disabled people they employ in proportion to their workforce, and their pay gaps”.
The gender pay gap reports have proven to be quite effective in raising the issue of women being forced into lower paying jobs. Some employers were embarrassed enough by the numbers they got to say they decided to try and do something about it.
Other reform proposals include making the option of working flexibly from day one the legal default for all jobs, and giving people stronger rights to paid disability leave for assessment. , rehabilitation and training.
Reading the press release I started to have a feeling of dÃ©jÃ vu because I’ve seen something like this before.
PwC, the accounting and professional services firm, this year voluntarily released its disability pay gap and the percentage of people with disabilities it employs. He’s already doing a lot of what the charter calls for, and he’s also laid out plans to become a more disability-friendly employer. Note, that’s not because PwC is a particularly cuddly organization dedicated to giving hugs. On the contrary. It is a business organization, the purpose of which is to make money. There are times when I have criticized the way this is going and I imagine I will be again. I wouldn’t do my job any other way.
However, when it comes to employing people with disabilities, the company is doing the right thing at least in part because there is a strong business rationale.
The right people are hard to find. These labor shortages that I mentioned aren’t just being felt among food processors and logistics companies that can’t find truck drivers for love or a golden four-figure hello ( here is Tesco).
This was made clear in the recent employment report produced by PwC’s rival, KPMG, with the Confederation of Recruitment and Employment. It recorded job vacancy growth at its highest level since January 1998, with the supply of workers falling at its fastest rate in four years.
The âwhite collarâ sectors – accountants, lawyers, bankers, etc. – were not spared.
Working on creating a disabled-friendly workplace makes sense, because a disabled-friendly workplace should be a better-furnished workplace than those run by people with their heads stuck in the 1950s. And even a more productive workplace. Yes, it’s true. Contrary to popular belief, people with disabilities tend to be much less likely to take sick leave. It is not difficult to guess why.
This naturally extends to the public sector.
The government launched with great fanfare what it called a âNational Disability Strategyâ earlier this year.
As someone with a disability reading it, I quickly came to the conclusion that it would probably do as much good as a teapot with a clogged spout.
One way to prove that this assessment is wrong would be for the government to follow PwC’s lead or to adhere to the charter on behalf of the public sector.
I’m sure the firm would be willing to send consultants to help them adjust. For an additional cost.
Or ministers could try something really radical, like talking to Christina McAnea, the general secretary of Unison, who helped create the charter alongside the Business Disability Forum, Disability Rights UK, the University of Warwick and others.
The government sometimes gives the impression that it would rather walk through a room full of coronavirus particles than talk to a union, but McAnea doesn’t bite. I talked to him. He is someone with whom the ministers could do business, especially if it would translate into a better fate for the large number of disabled members of the union. There would be no charge for this.
The government would then set an example for private sector employers. It shows how perverse his approach has been. That, instead of just yelling at business, now sounds like the height of radicalism.
This could ultimately help close the shockingly large employment gap for people with disabilities. It would be an achievement the government could really brag about.
So what about Boris Johson, Rishi Sunak, ThÃ©rÃ¨se Coffey, Kwasi Kwarteng and the rest of you? How about shocking the world and taking the moral – and commercially sensible – height for once by adopting the charter?