Disability and the Job Search—What Recruiters Need to Know

According to the disability charity Scope, disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people. That’s because they’re trying to stand out in an already saturated market that is inherently stacked against them. Of course, that’s not to say that charities aren’t trying to make an effort, but there are things you probably don’t even realise get in the way of convincing a disabled candidate to apply.

That stark reality is that disabled people are hugely under-represented in employment. They want to work but fear they will be discriminated against in the recruitment process because of accommodations that need to be made.

So how can we, as employers, ensure we’re encouraging and supporting disabled job seekers throughout the recruitment process?

Remember, discriminating against any candidate is against the law

The Equality Act 2010 states it pretty clearly—you cannot discriminate against someone because of a disability. That pertains to disabilities you know they have and disabilities you think they might have (otherwise known as discrimination by perception). If you aren’t sure what classifies as discrimination, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Ultimately, there are six different types of disability discriminations:

  • Direct discrimination – When you treat someone less favourably than another candidate because of their disability.
  • Indirect discrimination ­– When you have a particular policy that has a worse impact on disabled candidates than non-disabled candidates.
  • Failure to make reasonable adjustments – This includes access to jobs, education and services.
  • Discrimination arising from disability – When you treat someone badly because of something connected to their disability such as time off for medical appointments.
  • Harassment – When a disabled worker feels humiliated, offended or degraded.
  • Victimisation – When you treat someone badly after they have made a complaint.

Our advice? Make it clear in your recruitment that you’re open to all types of candidates applying and do what you can to accommodate job seekers wherever possible. If you think something you’re doing might be discriminatory, do what you can to change that practice.

How to become Disability Confident

Did you know that 7.7 million working-age people in the UK have a disability? If you’re not investing in ways to attract that talent pool, you’re missing out and it might be time to sign up for the government’s Disability Confident Scheme.

With over 18,000 members, Disability Confident is making a huge impact in changing behaviours and cultures in businesses across the UK. The scheme is designed to help you:

  • Challenge attitudes towards disability
  • Improve your understanding of disability
  • Remove barriers that exist for disabled candidates and those with long-term health conditions
  • Ensure disabled candidates have the opportunity to fulfil their potential

The scheme consists of three levels. During this process, you’ll agree to Disability Confident commitments and identify actions you’ll take that will make a difference for disabled jobseekers. Then, you’ll assess your organisation and report on your progress. Once you’ve completed the scheme, you’ll receive a badge on your website for all job seekers to see, which signals your commitment and investment in giving disabled candidates a fair shot.

disability confident for disabled job seekers

Remote working and job opportunities in the age of Covid

Since the onset of the pandemic, charities and private sector businesses alike have had to learn to operate remotely. And though there have been plenty of teething issues, many positive benefits have come out of the so-called ‘remote revolution’.

The biggest benefit, by far, is the influx of home-based positions. Far more organisations are open to the idea of long-term remote working, and that is hugely positive for the disabled community as it provides more opportunities for roles they may not have previously had access to. So if you’re thinking of posting a job, ask yourself, Does this role really have to be office-based or can it be done remotely?

But be careful of promising one thing and then delivering another. Many organisations have been forced to work from home because of social distancing guidelines but have every intention to go back into the office when it is safe to do so. If that’s the case, don’t advertise your role as remote as it can be misleading, especially for disabled jobseekers who were considering applying but know they cannot travel into the office once hired.

Our advice: be open to the idea of making a role remote. Not only will it diversify the pool of candidates who apply, but it will also provide more opportunities for amazing job seekers with disabilities who could be the perfect fit for your organisation.

regular catch ups for mental health

How to ensure your recruitment is inclusive of disabled candidates

In order to make your recruitment more accessible, you need to make sure disabled candidates aren’t deterred from applying for vacancies. There are several practical steps your organisation can take in order to ensure better disability inclusion in both your recruitment and day-to-day operations. The first step is making diversity training available to all staff—and more importantly, making sure your management team are able to have open discussions about diversity and disability and are equipped to make reasonable adjustments for their direct reports.

Then, take the time to review your recruitment processes to ensure any potential barriers for disabled candidates are mitigated and removed.

Purple, a UK charity dedicated to bringing businesses and disabled people together, suggest considering the following when recruiting for your next role:

  • Make sure the language used in your advert is accessible, avoid jargon and be precise about essential requirements.
  • Use at least font size 12.
  • Think about utilising specialist disability recruitment portals when you advertise your roles.
  • Be open about your approach to disability.
  • Don’t make any assumptions about who does and doesn’t have a disability.
  • Consider the level of flexibility in receiving information from candidates—i.e. could people send in a video application rather than a written one?
  • Ensure the interview takes place in an accessible location to minimise requests for adjustments.
  • Consider using disabled people (with a range of impairments and health conditions) to test your end-to-end recruitment process and provide feedback.

encourage disabled job seekers to apply

And remember, disability can be hard to define. It could be a physical disability, a learning disability, a mental health condition or an invisible condition. But if a candidate shows talent potential and a clear ability to excel in the role, then it’s worth being encouraging and accommodating to ensure equal opportunity to all. For more information on recruiting disabled candidates, check out Scope’s #WorkWithMe community.

Need more advice on how to build a more inclusive recruitment process? Download our new guide, Diversity in Recruitment: An Inclusive Hiring Guide for the Charity Sector today.

Tags: disability in recruitment, diversity and inclusion, diversity hiring guide, equality act

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About the author

Stephanie Dotto

Content & SEO Lead at CharityJob. Lover of fiction, films and food. In a previous life, she was a music and tourism journalist. When she’s not writing and editing blog content, she is working on her novel.