Social pressure key to employers having disability policy

UK
employers are more likely to operate a disability policy because of social
pressure rather than legislation, according to research published today in IRS
Employment Review.

One
in four respondents ranked social responsibility as one of their main reasons
for having a disability policy, compared with 16 per cent in 2001.

Although
the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) has focused on the need to
establish disability policies and avoid unlawful discrimination, the report
confirms that for the majority of employers, the DDA is rarely a primary reason
for having such a policy.

The
key findings of the research – conducted between July and September 2002 – are
based on 212 responses from HR managers across the private and public sectors.
These include: 


Just under nine out of 10 (185) respondents say their organisations have a
formal policy on the employment of disabled people, compared with two-thirds in
the 2000 and 2001 surveys


95 per cent (compared with 87 per cent in 2001) – say they currently employ
people with disabilities or long-term health problems


Two-thirds of employers actively encourage job applications from disabled
people


Public sector employers say that having an employee disability policy helps
improve the quality of service they provide to their customers and members of
the public


More employers reported that the DDA has had a greater impact on job retention
than on the recruitment of disabled people. 
However, three-quarters of employers reported that they have conducted a
comprehensive review of recruitment and selection procedures to ensure DDA
compliance (compared with 61 per cent in 2001)


25 per cent report that disabled employees in their organisations may work at
home for at least part of the working week

Peter
McGeer, who carried out the research for IRS Employment Review said:

“The
good news is that there is a marked increase in the number of employers making
reasonable adjustments for disabled employees; this is a step in the right
direction. The main argument for disability discrimination legislation was that
it would benefit potential workers who have faced considerable barriers to
entering employment. But, in practice, this isn’t the case; the DDA is used
instead as a means of addressing conflict between employees and employers. 

"If
social pressure rather than the law is the driving force for change, this may
explain why employers are far more likely to feel a duty to existing employees
with disabilities than, as they may see it, go to the trouble of making
adjustments to recruit a new employee. 
It will be interesting to see whether the number of disabled employees
increases significantly next year.”

By Ben Willmott

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