Opportunities to improve disability inclusion in the UK are being missed as almost half (47%) of business leaders believe there aren’t enough candidates with a disability, says new research by The Valuable 500.
The findings are in sharp contrast to data from Virgin Media and Scope’s ground-breaking campaign – ‘Work with Me, showing there are one million disabled people in the UK who want to and can work but are being denied the opportunity.
This is supported by an Opinium survey of 2,000 disabled people, which found that only half of their job applications resulted in an interview compared with 69% for non-disabled applicants.
In addition, 2021 Government figures show that the disability employment gap sits at 28.4%, decreasing year on year by just 0.7% – indicating a clear need for a shift away from misconceptions and taboos in recruitment.
The Valuable 500, the largest global network of CEOs, believes one major factor behind the lack of job candidates with disabilities could be the lack of disability inclusion in the workplace.
Whilst there has been a growing awareness in the past year, disability inclusion still doesn’t have its deserved share of voice in the broader business agenda. It is often a forgotten aspect in this conversation, particularly in business leadership, where just 4% of CEOs have a disclosed disability. The Valuable 500 is working to tackle this critical issue by promoting better’ storytelling’ by business leaders with first-hand experience of disability.
Disabled people bring immense contributions to business and society, making up 15% of the global population. They bring a diversity of thought, lived experience and a wealth of talent, all vital for the business sustainability agenda.
The Valuable 500’s research highlighted that 85% of businesses acknowledge that disability inclusion should be at the heart of their business strategies. This shows a significant disconnect between ambition and action, an area that needs to be improved.
The research also found that only 58% of businesses have a policy that actively addresses disability inclusion – highlighting the need for change is still ongoing.
The majority of companies (87%) felt that they had made progress on their Valuable 500 commitment since joining the collective. As evidence, 63% of companies now feature people with disabilities in their communications or marketing campaigns. However, less than half of the signatories have records of the percentage of the workforce that have a disability.
Signatories to the Valuable 500 represent an elite group in the vanguard of disability inclusion. These initial insights derive from the research conducted by the Valuable 500 members through an in-depth survey across 500 companies, consisting of 22 million employees, spanning 64 sectors and 41 countries. While it’s encouraging to see some clear shifts towards change, it is clear there is still a battle to be won.
Since reaching the goal of 500 organisations in May 2021, The Valuable 500 has launched phase 2 of the campaign, which will see the 500 major organisations work together to make change happen for disability inclusion in business. The Valuable 500 has also received the largest ever investment into disability business inclusion, with The Nippon Foundation investing $5 million to catalyse new Valuable 500 initiatives.
Caroline Casey, Founder of The Valuable 500, commented: “We are now entering 2022, and employers who have gone through two years of disruption are re-building and need to ensure that disability inclusion is at the heart of their agendas. The research shows that whilst many companies are striving to do just this, we still have a lack of representation, and businesses still have a long way to shift the dial truly and irreversibly on disability inclusion. 18% of the UK population have a disability, and they need to be seen and heard.
“But more than this – we need to strive to fundamentally transform the global business system and fight for an inclusive society. As we move into Phase two of the Valuable 500, by engaging with the world’s largest organisations and leaders, the Valuable 500 hopes to ensure that disability will be on their 2022 agendas. At some point in our lives, every single one of us will experience disability, and we all have a responsibility to make humanity function better.”
Paul Polman, Chairman of The Valuable 500, commented: “Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is a powerful driver for improved company performance, and this must extend to including people with disabilities. It’s not only the right thing to do but also the smart and profitable thing to do for any business leaders looking to unlock talent, boost innovation and build a culture of trust, respect and inclusion throughout the company.
“We’ve seen progress in recent years as the biggest business groups across the globe have signed up to disability inclusion commitments through the Valuable 500. 2022 must bring faster action to close the disability employment gap once and for all.”