Disabled employees being overlooked by ‘diversity distracted’ employers

Employers are failing disabled workers because they are being distracted by the overarching concept of diversity, the Employers Forum on Disability (EFD) has warned.

The campaign group claimed that this so-called ‘diversity distraction’ meant disability risked becoming the poor relation of the six equality strands.

EFD chief executive Susan Scott-Parker said its research revealed that too often employers approached the concept of diversity, rather than concentrating on becoming ‘disability confident’.

“There is little evidence that diversity-branded messages encourage commitment to disability equality,” she said. “For many global organisations, diversity means race and then gender.

“The EFD believes that the diversity brand is proving, in many cases, to be a distraction, preventing employers from taking specific disability related actions and causing disabled people to lose out at work.”

Organisations are also risking sanctions by failing to meet legal obligations on reasonable adjustment policies, which allow disabled employees to work as effectively as non-disabled colleagues.

An EFD survey of 116 organisations found that only 8% had an effective policy in place, despite adjustments often costing little to implement. Scott-Parker called for HR professionals to be properly trained in the issue.

In August, Trevor Phillips, chair of the new Equality and Human Rights Commission, said diversity should be taken away from HR and become a separate function within businesses, as this would ensure the issue cuts right across recruitment, products and services.

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