I speak to employers about recruiting disabled staff on a daily basis. And I always ask this question. The response is always interesting and tells me a lot about an organisation.
Forward-thinking organisations can usually tell me this figure straight away. They also tell me they’re aware that the figure is very likely to be inaccurate. And if I’m having a great day they tell me what they’re doing to change this. They’re aware they don’t know the number of people with invisible disabilities. They’re aware they don’t know the number of employees with long term health conditions. They’re aware that often disabled people don’t disclose their condition. And for good reason.
Evenbreak candidates tell us that if they disclose their disability, they don’t get as many interviews. When they are employed, they often experience stigma and bullying. And fewer opportunities for career progression. So, if they don’t trust the employer, they don’t disclose it. And many disabled people don’t trust most employers. With good reason. Take the word ‘disclose’ for a start. Why not simply ‘tell’? Where else do you have to disclose something? Customs comes to my mind first! A quick internet search brought up this:
make (secret or new information) known. “they disclosed her name to the press” synonyms: reveal, make known, divulge, tell, impart, communicate, pass on, vouchsafe, unfold
allow (something hidden) to be seen. “he cleared away the grass and disclosed a narrow opening descending into the darkness” synonyms: uncover, expose to view, allow to be seen, reveal, show, exhibit, lay bare, bring to light; rare unclose “exploratory surgery disclosed an aneurysm”
It’s not brimming over with positivity, is it? What we all seem to forget is that different abilities, disability, long-term health conditions are normal. It’s part of life. Part of society. They shouldn’t need to be hidden or apologised for. And the battle for equal rights and opportunities shouldn’t be so utterly exhausting.
One day, I hope, it won’t be. Increasingly, organisations are being asked to ‘disclose’ the number of disabled people they employ. Organisations will have to explain the inconsistencies between officially disclosed disability and the actual disability figures given in staff surveys. And they’re being asked to consider the lack of representation of disabled people at senior levels.
So, there are a few questions for employers to ask themselves:
Do you know how many disabled people you employ?
Do you ask? If not, why not?
Do you know what difficulties disabled staff or those with long term health conditions experience while working for you?
Essentially, can you be trusted?
And if not… What actions are you taking to change this?