Disability is last choice for equality investment

Organisations are investing less in tackling disability discrimination than other forms of inequality, such as race and gender, a new report reveals.

The Employers’ Forum on Disability, which represents more than 400 UK organisations, has compared the performance of business on disability with that on race and gender.

The resulting picture is one of organisations investing significantly less in disability, compared to race or gender. This pattern even holds true for those organisations that are committed to self-improvement across all three diversity strands.

Forum chief executive, Susan Scott-Parker, said: “It would seem disability and disability discrimination are still regarded as distinctly different to, and less important than, race and gender.”

Ninety per cent of organisations have an allocated budget to support race equality, compared to just 48% on disability, the research shows. Almost 90% have policies to support race equality, 74% have policies to support gender equality, while just 43% have disability equality policies.
This disparity is leading to a “competition for justice” between the three equal opportunities fields, said Scott-Parker.

She called on business to be more “disability confident” and naturally include disabled people as part of a diverse workforce.

The report also found that the way organisations respond to disability, including interacting with customers and the wider community, is usually left to HR. Only a third of firms set disability goals in departments outside HR and property services.

Separate research published last week showed that a third of graduate recruiters could be breaking the Disability Discrimination Act by advertising jobs online.

The study, by Personnel Today’s sister title IRS Employment Review, revealed that in the past year, online application methods have gained in popularity and are now used by two-thirds of employers.

However, one in three are unaware that disability discrimination law applies to online recruitment. Website owners are legally obliged to ensure their sites are accessible to all – for example, websites must be compatible with voice-recognition software.

Research by the Disability Rights Commission last year found that 80% of websites were inaccessible to disabled people. Blind people were the most disenfranchised of internet users, the survey found.

Review your policies

The Society of Personnel Officers in Government Services has advised HR professionals to review their recruitment processes and employment arrangements to accommodate the needs of current or potential employees who may have learning difficulties.

The recent Dunham v Ashford Windows judgment ruled that the protections afforded by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) apply in circumstances where a person has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

This case establishes that generalised learning difficulties can fall within the scope of the DDA and, as such, employers must ensure they make reasonable adjustments to overcome any “provision, criterion or practice” that puts an employee in that position at a disadvantage.

For more on the judgment, go to www.personneltoday.com/31639.article

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