Studies have shown that ‘persons with disabilities have high performance ratings and retention rates, as well as better attendance records than their colleagues without disabilities' (1).
Despite these obvious benefits, disabled people are still significantly under-represented in the television industry. Just 8% of people appearing on screen and 4.5% of people behind the camera have a disability, compared to 18% of the of the overall UK population, according to the latest Diamond data (2). So what can we do to address this imbalance, and make our organisations more attractive workplaces to all potential employees?
Misconceptions about costs
Firstly, a common misconception is that hiring employees with disabilities leads to increased costs to your business. But evidence suggests that’s simply not the case.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to make sure workers with disabilities (physical and/or mental), aren’t substantially disadvantaged (3). This applies to all workers, including trainees, apprentices, contract workers and business partners. Examples of reasonable adjustments could include installing a ramp, altered working hours for someone with anxiety, or obtaining software to help an employee who is visually impaired to read documents.
The good news is that many of the costs of adjustments in the workplace are covered by the government-backed grant scheme, Access to Work, once an employee begins employment. This grant must be applied for by the employee, but should then mean that the company has few to no added costs when hiring someone with a disability. Access to Work, or agencies working with them, can also conduct or pay for workplace assessments and help advise on reasonable adjustments for your employee.
Making your recruitment process more inclusive
Have you reviewed your hiring processes from application to interview? By making a few small changes you could increase the number of people with disabilities applying for roles within your company.
Some good practices to introduce to your recruitment processes to make them more inclusive include:
- Advertise widely to reach as many applicants as possible – make sure you are using free to access platforms and state clearly that you welcome applications from people with disabilities or impairments.
- Make sure your application packs and forms are accessible. Avoid PDF documents , use simple language, and give people the option to apply in their preferred format. Offer alternative versions on request, such as large text format or braille.
- Be understanding that what might be seen as poor grammar may actually be an access issue for someone with dyslexia or for whom British Sign Language is a first language.
- Use appropriate language: ‘people/person with a disability’, wheelchair user rather than wheelchair bound; visually impaired rather than blind; avoid “suffers from”.
- Remember that education isn’t always fully accessible and that people with chronic illnesses or disabilities may take alternative routes into employment. Make sure to consider experience gained from both work and non-work scenarios when looking at skills and abilities for each applicant.
- Often the screen industries overstate the ‘physical’ side of the industry – be clear what is necessary and what is ‘ad hoc’. There won’t always be long days or requirements to move kit and props.
- Ask everyone you interview if they have access needs – not just people with visible impairments. Is the room you plan to hold interviews in accessible? If not, perhaps there is a more suitable room within your building, or you can find an accessible alternative. This applies beyond the recruitment stage – is your office as accessible as it could be? Are there simple ways you can adapt your office space? And will you make sure you take accessibility into account when looking for new office space?
Be open and inclusive about disability in the workplace
It is important to be open and supportive in the workplace, and to encourage people to declare their access needs so that you can properly support them. It is up to the individual if they want to disclose their disability or access needs, but by being inclusive it is more likely that someone will make the choice to do so. This also applies to anyone who becomes ill or impaired during their employment with you.
There are positive actions you can take to create a culture where all employees feel valued and included:
- Advertise that you are a disabled-friendly employer — if you have produced any programmes with disabled contributors, taken part in any targeted schemes or already employ people with disabilities – put that information front and centre.
- Remember that it is your employee’s choice to disclose their disability but by encouraging all of your members of staff to be open about things that may be affecting them, you will encourage a happier and more inclusive workforce.
- Don’t make assumptions – don’t assume that because someone is disabled or has access needs that they automatically can or can’t do certain things.
- Communicate effectively - having good, two-way communication in your organisation helps to ensure that employees feel they are listened to and there is a clear channel for any issues or concerns to be raised. It’s also a great opportunity for the business to learn from existing employees about changes you can make to be more inclusive going forward.
Ultimately, if employees feel able to be themselves and know that they are supported, they are more likely to do their best work and fulfil their potential. So it’s in the best interest of the individual as well as the business to ensure the workplace is inclusive and accessible to all.
We have further legal guidance and information about recruiting and employing disabled talent, and your responsibilities as an employer, here.
Additional useful resources:
This page is based on information from ThinkBIGGER Ltd. for Pact Diversity.
2. Figures from CDN Diamond: The First Cut, May 2018.