The Equality Commission in Northern Ireland has issued new guidance on recruiting disabled people. “Making it work” shares the personal stories of six individuals with different disabilities and their success in finding work. There is also information on support available to individuals and employers to employ disabled people.
Research by Scope tells us that disabled people make 60% more applications than those without a disability before finding a job. One in five people in Northern Ireland live with a disability and the employment rate for disabled people in Northern Ireland is 37.3%, which is the lowest figure across all of the UK regions. However recruiting disabled people can create a workforce that reflects the range of customers it serves and the community in which it is based.
Employers who are keen to be truly “equal opportunity employers” can think about taking “outreach positive action”. An example of this could be reserving a quota of jobs for disabled people, to the exclusion of people who are not disabled, or operating a “guaranteed interview scheme” for disabled job applicants. Outreach positive action is lawful under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
Whilst outreach positive action is voluntary, reasonable adjustments are not.
Employers are under a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments. Once an employer knows, or could reasonably be expected to know that an applicant is disabled, the obligation to consider reasonable adjustments is triggered, and the employer should consider this even if it has not been raised by the employee. Remember that a disability can be physical or mental and can also be hidden.
Reasonable adjustments in recruitment could include providing information about the job and the application form in an alternative format, eg large print, Braille or as an audio file or providing extra time for an assessment. The application form should contain space for candidates to provide information about any adjustments they may require during the recruitment process.
There are a range of organisations providing employability programmes for disabled people, for all areas of disability. In addition, the Department for Communities provide a range of mainstream and specialist employment programmes to assist people to find work and provide in-work support.
Employers may be able to get help from Access to Work towards some costs where an individual requires support or adaptations. Access to Work can provide a grant to pay for the cost of the support, for example to provide special aids and equipment, adaptations to equipment, communication support at interview and support workers.
The Equality Commission publication is available at Making it Work – Employment Support Services for People with Disabilities (equalityni.org)