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Employers are missing out on top talent by dismissing workers living with disabilities

Diversity in the workplace is increasingly becoming a priority for businesses worldwide

Researchers know that a main reason for lower employment participation rates of people with disabilities is that employers often have prohibitive concerns and pessimistic ideas about hiring people with disabilities —such as the view that it will be expensive or candidates with disabilities aren’t qualified to the level the firm requires.

Problems start at the interview stage which has its own challenges for disabled workers. Perhaps applicants are required to attend an interview where the preparatory material has been supplied in a format that you cannot read. Or imagine having to go through the interview in the car park, because you can’t access the office in your wheelchair.

These are real experiences of young disabled people who City AM recently spoke to.

Only half of disabled people in the UK who are of working age are in employment, compared with 81 per cent of the rest of the population – the much talked about “disability employment gap”. Urgent action is required to transform these figures.

City Bridge Trust, the City Corporation’s charity funder, does recognise that the challenges can be complex and not always straightforward to rectify.

This is where Bridge to Work, a £3 million charity, plays a positive part in helping young disabled Londoners find a wealth of employment opportunities.

Bridge to Work provides grants for projects offering employability support for the capital’s young disabled people – and helps to strengthen links between employers and the disabled community. The programme has a focus on work experience and offers a range of other opportunities.

The organisation also helps charities provide vital personalised job search support, advice on employment rights, job coaching, and online help for job seekers. They pay for research and policy work aimed at employers and education providers.

All participants in the programme said that the project had improved their future employment prospects, boosted their skills and helped them to find and apply for jobs successfully.

Employers were also interested in getting involved when they saw the strong business case and clear benefits to their firms.

Recent research by McKinsey suggests that diverse companies are more likely to financially outperform less diverse companies. This is also the reason why so many blue-chip firms invest heavily in inclusive recruitment programmes, as they want the best talent drawn from the widest possible talent pool.

The issue is of course not restricted to London – there are over 11m disabled people across the UK. Nationally, only six per cent of people with a learning disability are in paid employment.

Bold, ambitious actions urgently need to be taken to improve these dire employment statistics and to open up a wider talent pool to both employers and recruiters.

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