Our 6 favourite disability-friendly employers in the UK

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When it comes to growing your career, a disability shouldn’t be a barrier. Knowing about inclusive employment practices and what’s available to you in the workplace as a person with a disability can make all the difference in your job search.

In this article, we’ll detail what to look for when it comes to assessing how well an employer might treat and support you on the job. We’ll also share some of the top disability-friendly employers in the UK who are going the extra mile to promote acceptance and inclusion within the workplace.

Disability Confident employers - what to look out for

Firstly, it’s essential to know your rights when it comes to working and becoming employed. The Equality Act of 2010 says it’s against the law for an employer to discriminate against you because of a disability. That applies to everything from your job application and interviews to pay, promotion, being let go as well as retirement. All of this also applies if you become disabled while working too.

Further to this, employers need to make ’reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace to ensure you’re successful in your role.

The law is clear. Sadly, research shows that disabled people are still twice as likely to be unemployed compared to a non-disabled person. Despite this, companies across the country are working hard to break down barriers and offer more jobs for disabled people. Some of these are beginning to make strides, as we’ll outline below.  It’s something they’ll want to continue to invest in too; if an extra one million disabled people were working, that would equate to a 45 million pound boost to the economy. Now, that’s not short change.

So what should you look out for to determine whether a company you’re interested in is inclusive (or, still has some work to do)? Here are a few good indicators:

  • Are they a member of the Business Disability Forum (or BDF)? While an employer can still operate inclusively without credentialing, being a member of the BDF is a good sign they’re taking this responsibility seriously.
  • Do they have workplace assistance in place? The organisation should be able to make adjustments during the recruitment process and on the job for you to have the best shot at success.
  • Is there an internal disability network already set up? Many of the companies on this list foster active employee networks centred around specific diversity groups: mental health, LGBTQ+, etc. If the company already has a disability network setup, it shows they are committed to giving disabled employees a voice in the workspace.
  • Are they promoting or open to fostering further awareness? There’s still a lack of awareness among some organisations around disabilities. That means you may need to speak to your boss or HR department openly about what you need.

Remember, don’t be afraid to raise any questions or concerns you have. ‘The Equality Act covers ‘reasonable adjustments’, and many are inexpensive to implement. You can even point your employer to the Access to Work scheme, which can help support them with some of these adjustments. The more you can help in educating others about what you need, the more awareness you’re spreading, which will, in turn, help others.

Here are six organisations paving the way when it comes to disability employment in the UK.

Allianz

A proud official partner of the British Paralympic Association, insurance company Allianz says its involvement with the BPA stems deeper than simply sponsorship. Their involvement has inspired them to cater to a much broader customer base and also hire more diversely.

As accredited Disability Confident employers, Allianz works with the Business Disability Forum to create further support for their employees. Internally, Allianz has also created a network for employees with disabilities and those passionate to support them. It’s one of several active employee networks which provides support and feedback to the organisation to help Allianz in continuing to remove barriers and foster greater workplace diversity and acceptance.

Channel 4

Channel 4 ensures that understanding and support of differences, including disabilities permeates their entire organisation. The media giant’s internal disability network, 4Purple, fosters open conversation about disability in order to promote, educate and inform on a wide variety of disability-related topics. They also train each staff member in mental health first aid. Channel 4 also makes inclusion and acceptance a priority in the workplace, encouraging staff members to ask questions and speak candidly about their experiences with disabilities. In 2018, the company also published a guide for the broadcast sector on employing disabled talent.

UK Athletics

Diversity, equality and inclusion are vitally important to UK Athletics. As the foremost body responsible for creating and implementing regulations in sport, respect and integrity are central to their company identity. As such, they embrace diversity in a number of different ways. Back in 2018, the UKA hosted its very first UKAbility meeting. This event marked the beginning of their process to ensure people with a disability or impairment felt included and heard.

The UKA committed to ensuring staff were disability aware, arranging disability equality training for employees and sending delegates to healthcare inclusion events. They hope to spread this sense of inclusivity and diversity throughout their organisation. As an employer, they encourage people to bring their whole selves to work every day and to make everyone feel valued and supported.

Lloyds Banking Group

For several years now, the BDF has recognised Lloyds Banking Group as a leading employer when it comes to disabilities. Over the past few years, they’ve managed to hit and retain their Gold Standard Benchmark.

Central to the bank’s efforts has been its Workplace Adjustment Programme, a groundbreaking initiative that has offered support to over 18,000 workers to date. With the help of Remploy, they’ve also created a work experience scheme for those with disabilities. All this effort alongside partnerships with organisations such as Power 100 and the BDF make Loyds a key player when it comes to employing without barriers.

Network Rail

As a Level 3 Disability Confident employer, Network Rail has gained recognition within its peer group of organisations for its efforts to champion differences. They’re keen to show potential candidates with disabilities they are leading the way in promoting Disability Confidence, both in and outside their organisation.

Last year, they hosted Disability week, an employee-run week for events and activities to help staff think differently about disabilities, both physical and mental, visible and invisible. The company is also committed to maintaining an inclusive work environment where barriers are broken and stereotypes and prejudice lessened.

Aviva

Another insurer on this list with a Disability Confident accreditation, Aviva is committed to building a community of colleagues who have an interest in supporting disability. From interactive design workshops hosted by their UX team to approaching hiring with an open and inclusive mind, Aviva is dedicated to inclusion.

A whitepaper published by the Chartered Insurance Institute includes a case study about an Aviva employee dealing with multiple health and mobility challenges. The employee outlines the support they received from their manager and team in the form of an adjustments passport as well as a phased exit and return-to-work strategies surrounding a surgery they needed. It showcases what the insurer specifically did to make the employee in question feel supported and empowered.

Environment Agency

Aspiring to be a top employer for equality and fairness, the Environment Agency is engaging in several initiatives to achieve this goal. One of its main areas of focus in addressing inclusivity is a workplace adjustment programme to help employees who need additional support. The Mobilise Network was formed to review where these efforts could be improved. The government agency is also conducting thorough benchmarking: working with expert organisations to learn best practices when it comes to accommodating disabled employees. Part of this external research has involved reaching out to the BDF to benefit from their expertise as well as consulting with their own internal disability networks.

From insurance to banking, government and media, there are companies across all sectors working to make the workplace a more diversity-friendly environment.

Remember, everyone brings their own unique set of skills and strengths to the table, so make sure to highlight yours during the hiring process so you can really stand out. There are plenty of incredible roles and opportunities available to those with disabilities, more than you might think. So approach every opportunity with a sense of optimism. There are disability-friendly employers out there who are ready and willing to support you throughout your recruitment journey and career. With a little research, you’re sure to uncover many more than just the ones on this list!.

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