Its worth regularly reminding ourselves of the real value that disabled people bring to our organisations. There have been recent mutterings about disabled people being “not worth” the minimum wage, which sends out the opposite message to reality – that disabled employees are a positive asset to any workplace.
Organisations who have employed disabled people before are almost always keen to do so again. Those that haven’t can be wary of employing us. They fear that we will be unproductive, have high levels of sickness absence, we might leave if we can’t cope with the work, and we might be a health and safety hazard. And we might cost them a fortune in providing “reasonable adjustments”. I can understand why these fears might put employers off us, if these fears were based on reality.
However, they are just myths. Much research has been carried out around disability and employment over the years and in different countries, and they all come up with similar findings*. This research suggests that:
- disabled employees on average are just as productive as our non-disabled colleagues
- disabled employees generally have significantly less time off sick
- disabled employees have fewer workplace accidents
- disabled people stay in our jobs longer
- disabled people bring additional qualities (such as persistence, problem-solving, innovation, determination, creativity) that we have had to develop to navigate our way around a world not designed for us
- disabled people bring inside intelligence into the “purple pound” – estimated at over £200 billion a year in the UK
- having a workforce which reflects the public they serve gives that public confidence in those services
- people prefer to buy their goods and services from organisations who employ disabled people
- people prefer to work for organisations which are inclusive and accessible and look after their staff – so they attract the best talent
- some disabled people bring specific additional skills (e.g. many people on the autistic spectrum are good at work which requires attention to detail or visual thinking)
- a diverse workforce makes better decisions by tapping into different points of view
On that basis, employers in both the public and private sectors should be paying a premium for disabled staff, not paying us less!
So, if you are looking for productive, loyal, creative and dedicated staff then you need to consider the talent pool of disabled people.
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*If you would like the sources of this research, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to send it to you.