Quarter of firms have never interviewed a disabled person

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More than half (52%) of HR leaders incorrectly believe the main reason disabled people don’t get jobs is because they lack the right skills or qualifications, according to Scope

Its research also found that a quarter (25%) of businesses have never interviewed a disabled person.

Progress has been slow in this area largely because employers, and specifically HR leaders, are failing to engage with the issue, the research stated. It highlighted that there are one million disabled people who want to work but are unemployed because they’re being shunned by businesses.

However, 40% of HR leaders surveyed said that they are prioritising creating an inclusive workplace for people with disabilities over the next five years.

Janina Vallance, executive director of people and change at Scope, said it is "astonishing" that so many disabled people who wish to work are unemployed.

"It really exposes a hole in HR practices," she said. “When we look at protected characteristics there has been a lot more discussion around gender and ethnicity, which is welcome, but disabled people are often still getting left behind."

Catherine Lynch, chief people officer at Virgin Media, added that this was partially due to misunderstandings about workplace adjustments.

“There's still a lot of work to be done to get HR to understand disability. It's about a lot more than putting up a ramp and saying that you’re accessible. Many people who are classed as disabled may have a mental health condition, for example," she said.

“It involves looking at employees on a far more individual basis. An employee with anxiety may struggle to get to work in the morning on public transport, so allowing for more flexible working patterns or arranging another way for them to get to work could make a huge difference.”

This research comes after Virgin Media and Scope launched their #WorkWithMe pledge in May, a free five-step plan to help businesses create more inclusive workplaces. The pledge has been signed by businesses including Philips, JCB and Centrica. It offers HR professionals practical advice and information.

“We really want other employers to sign up to the pledge. There are so many low-cost, practical, easy steps that HR can take to encourage more people with disabilities into work, and to help them progress throughout their careers,” said Lynch.

“This is also an opportunity to create a network with other employers who have signed the pledge, to talk about what does and what doesn’t work. You don’t need a big budget, just the willingness to take baby steps. If you do that it will eventually become embedded in your work culture.”

YouGov surveyed 515 HR senior decision-makers for Scope in April 2019.

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