Government launches guide to support drive for inclusive workplaces for disabled staff
The UK government is urging large companies to reveal how many of their workers have a disability or a mental health condition in an effort to create greater transparency in the workplace.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), in partnership with employers and charities, have developed a framework to support employers that want to voluntarily report this information.
The guide, which was designed for organisations with more than 250 employees but can also be used by smaller employers, gives advice on how to collect data for reporting and includes recommended questions and a series of prompts to shape the employer narrative. It also provides links to other sources for further support.
When reporting disabilities, organisations should state the percentage of workers who consider themselves to be disabled and set out how they support their disabled employees.
Questions including, “How satisfied are you with your job?”, “How would you rate your overall mental health now?”, and “How anxious did you feel yesterday?”, will provide a starting point for employers looking to measure the wellbeing of their employees, the framework says.
Data can be collected using methods such as anonymous staff surveys and updated self-service HR records.
“The voluntary reporting framework focuses not just on the publication of numbers, but also more broadly on the shaping and sharing of an organisational narrative which captures how an employer is seeking to support their employees to create an open and supportive culture around managing health at work,” the guide states.
It goes on to say that recording and reporting information on disabilities, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace could help to improve employee engagement and retention, promote disability-friendly recruitment; create inclusive environments for workers; and drive a cultural shift towards increased transparency.
Around one-fifth of the UK’s working age population has a disability or health condition. The latest employment figures shows that more than half of disabled people are now in work, with almost one million more in the workplace over the past five years.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We’ve taken steps in the right direction with almost a million more disabled people in work over the last five years, and 10,000 businesses having signed up to the Disability Confident scheme [which helps organisations recruit and retain disabled people and people with health conditions].
“But the disability employment gap is still too wide. I call on employers in every sector to take an honest look at how many disabled people they employ. I ask them to look at the support they are offering and how accessible their workplaces are so everyone can be given the chance to reach their full potential at work.”
In separate news Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people, health and work, has announced that 19 initiatives designed to help people with health conditions stay in work will receive a share of almost £4m.
The £3.9m Challenge Fund, which is managed by the DWP and the DHSC, will test new approaches that aid workers with mental health and/or musculoskeletal problems, according to the website, and that make it easier for them to access advice about what jobs they are most suited to.
One organisation that secured government funding developed a new mobile phone app that aims to ease lower back pain by giving suffers a personalised self-management plan. Another successful bidder developed an app that gives advice on how to identify the warning signs of poor mental health and provides access to a vocational rehabilitation trained advisor.
Newton said: “We want to harness the power of technology to tackle the disability employment gap, and these novel ideas will help us achieve our goal of seeing one million more disabled people in work.
“The Challenge Fund has given experts on the ground the opportunity to come up with ideas on how best to support people to manage their health conditions at work, and the financial backing to take those ideas forward.”
The organisations that have been awarded funding include Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Trust, Remploy, the Institute for Employment Studies, the Rail Safety Standards Board, and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.
The fund is the latest in a series of government measures which form part of a ten-year strategy to get one million more disabled people in work by 2027.
Keeley Downey is assistant editor of IOSH Magazine