Employee trust key to understanding needs of disabled workforce

Organisations wanting to gain an accurate picture of their disabled workforce need to build understanding and trust

Employers need to be clear about the purpose of any data-collecting activity and how employees will benefit from sharing information about a disability. These are some of the key findings from a new global report published by the Business Disability Forum.

The report, entitled, ‘Collecting Global Employee Disability Data: The challenges and enablers for disability-smart organisations’, looks at the experiences of 51 leading global organisations around gathering employee disability data.

The researchers wanted to understand why global organisations gather employee disability data, their challenges, and how these can be overcome. The research is sponsored by HSBC and includes insights from Accenture, GSK, HSBC, Shell and Unilever.

Collecting data

The research found that with more organisations operating globally, the importance of collecting employee disability data at a global level was also growing.

  • 67% of respondents said their organisations were already collecting global employee disability data in some form.
  • Amongst those organisations that were not currently collecting data, 44% said they intended to do so within the next 18 months.

Three key reasons for collecting disability data were also identified by the report.

  • To advance the inclusive culture of their organisation (89%)
  • To understand how many employees have a disability (86%)
  • To encourage more employees to share that they have a disability (84%).

The challenges

However, all organisations also identified multiple challenges around collecting data. Theses included:

  • Employees not understanding the value in sharing data (65%).
  • Employees not feeling comfortable sharing data (45%).

Organisations that had been collecting global employee disability data for some time expressed the importance of being clear from the outset about the purpose of the exercise and the benefits that it would bring to the employee.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO, Business Disability Forum, said: “Employers need an accurate picture of their workforce so they can provide the best support and opportunities for their employees and help close the disability employment gap.

“When it comes to gender, it is clear that measurement drives transparency, scrutiny and ultimately, results. But measuring disability is inherently much more difficult. Over 90% of disabilities are not immediately visible and how to encourage your workforce to share is one of the most frequently asked questions of our Advice Service.

“Fear of being treated differently is one of the key reasons why employees do not share information about a disability or long-term condition. If we want to improve the working lives of disabled people, we need to create cultures built on openness and trust, where disabled employees feel safe to share with their employer.”

Global lens

Collecting data at a global level often added to the complexities and challenges the report found. In-country laws and quotas, along with language and terminology, greatly affected what data was collected. Data capture approaches also varied significantly across a global organisation, with local approaches created to meet local data requirements.

  • 42% of organisations reported the ‘lack of a consistent global definition of disability’ as a key challenge.
  • 40% highlighted ‘challenges with mapping local data with globally consistent categories.


Based on the research, Business Disability Forum has developed four key recommendations for global organisations looking to collect and use global employee disability data.

Purpose. Develop a clear and compelling reason, or set of reasons, why global employee disability data collection is important and what it is intended to achieve.

Fundamentals. Establish globally consistent and locally resonant terminology, systems and resources, which makes global employee disability data collection work.

Leadership. Seek sponsorship, role modelling and accountability at the most senior level(s), which positions disability inclusion as a ‘call to action’ that impacts everyone.

Culture. Promote an organisational culture of psychological safety and trust, enabling employees to talk openly about disability and lived experience without fear of detriment.

For more information on the report visit the global section of Business Disability Forum’s Knowledge Hub:businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/knowledge-hub/resource/category/global/


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