Nichole Rushton: Embodying the power of inclusive employment

Nichole is living proof of what happens when an employer provides a genuinely inclusive working environment, where individuals are truly supported.  

A head and shoulders image of Nichole
Nichole Rushton

As she says, “if you had told me that after being off work for three years with a car accident injury, being in a wheelchair, feeling like I’d lost my career, Id lost everything, that 12 months on, I would not only be employed but I’d be in something I really enjoy, that gives me purpose every day…I’d have told you that you were completely crazy! But it happened!” 

Hers is a story of gradually increasing hurdles, culminating in a major car accident that turned repeated redundancies into longer-term exclusion from the world of employment. Nichole has Addison’s Disease, an adrenal disease where steroids are key to her functioning. Sometimes Nichole needs an emergency steroid injection, a relatively complicated procedure, which needs training to administer. This can cause issues if an employer is unwilling to support an employee to this extent.  

But Nichole is not someone to give up – through her advocacy work for Addison’s Disease, she became aware of Jane Hatton, Evenbreak, and its ethos of inclusive employment being the route to getting more people with disabilities reaching their full potential.  

And after her car accident, and years of rehabilitation, she wanted her life back! But Nichole was aware she would need an employer who was prepared to help make this happen: as Nichole says, “I had several employer interviews where they just gave me this kind of look that said ‘who do you think you are? You don’t even have the job yet!” 

So when she saw the job ad in Evenbreak, for a Head Office Case Manager at Waitrose, she was very hopeful. Not only was it for Waitrose, whose positive customer ethos she was familiar with, but the role was advertised in Evenbreak, in whom she had a lot of faith. “It’s advertised on Evenbreak, so that’s a good shout – let’s see if we can give them a try”. 

It was reassuring to Nichole that Waitrose demonstrated how serious they were about ensuring people with disabilities are supported at work from the start. As soon as Nichole started work at Waitrose Head Office, everything was there for her to be able to work comfortably – several people are trained to administer her injection kit, as well as there being an electric desk, so she can stand or sit as she needs. Since lockdown, she has been provided with an electric desk and monitors so she can work from home: essential, given her compromised immune system.  

“I just love it because they let me be myself, and I never feel like a person who’s got a light shining on them because they’re difficult… other employers have made me feel that way, and this one just doesn’t!” 

Proof that when organisations truly live by inclusive values, as demonstrated by both Evenbreak and Waitrose, they achieve so much. As Nichole says, now she is “thriving!” 

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