Getting and holding down a job has traditionally been an enormous challenge for people with learning disabilities. The written job application process, followed by a face-to-face interview, can be very intimidating. Many are put off from applying, and many of those that do perform badly in comparison to others.
Their historically low levels of employment has always represented a massive missed opportunity for HR professionals and the organisations they work for. A large proportion of the 1.5 million people with learning disabilities in the UK have a lot to contribute in the workplace - if only they could enter it.
They can often match, even outperform, other colleagues, particularly when engaged in routine-based jobs that require high levels of commitment.
Fortunately, the prospects for paid employment appear to be improving, based on ground-breaking research carried out in conjunction with Personnel Today's sister magazine Community Care. It seems that businesses are starting to realise the potential of people with learning disabilities, but as our separate survey of people with learning disabilities shows, there's still some way to go.
Feedback from 451 HR professionals across the private, public and voluntary sectors shows that 59% of organisations employ people with learning disabilities. And 77% describe this employment experience as positive.
But one-fifth of HR professionals do not know whether they employ people with learning disabilities and, if they do, the same proportion are unsure whether it had been a positive or negative experience for the organisation.
Additionally, only 12% of employers used specialist recruitment schemes that help those who find normal recruitment methods too challenging. A far greater number of people with learning disabilities would have a job if specialist recruitment schemes were more widely used.
But employers should bear disability discrimination legislation in mind anyway, as this places an obligation on them to make adjustments in the workplace for those disabled staff who need it. This includes recruitment procedures and terms and conditions of employment.
One of the biggest challenges to further progress lies not with HR, but in convincing sceptical line manager