What does being a disability confident employer mean?

By Tony Cates, Head of Audit, KPMG in the UK

Talented people are the heart of any good business.  Being able to attract people from the widest possible talent pool is absolutely vital in keeping a business competitive and moving it forward,  so being a disability confident employer should be central in any recruitment drive.

But what exactly does being disability confident mean in real terms for business, and can you ever be really confident that you have met your commitment 100 percent?

Being a disability confident employer means thinking about the needs of people with disabilities when creating employment opportunities.

Our disability policy is constantly developing, and yet we started our journey to become a disability confident in 2005. We have learned a great deal so far and it has not resulted in spending vast sums of money on redesigning buildings or been a huge upheaval to business as usual.

In fact, what we have learned is that employers need to feel comfortable having honest discussions with disabled staff and clients.  This dialogue has to be two way, employers need to find out exactly what adjustments and needs their disabled staff  require in order to do their job to the best of their ability, and employers need to feel comfortable asking the questions.  At the same time, disabled employees need to feel that they can have honest dialogue about their needs, in an environment of trust, so that they aren’t made to feel that they are damaging their career prospects by admitting that they have a disability.  Importantly, employers need to act and ensure they have facilities and processes in place to support and develop individuals through their careers, just as we would with all staff. 

Much of the work required to help our business to become disability confident has revolved around disabilty champions, networks and steering groups to continue to educate us as employers about what is required from us.  The sensible use of technology to make it easier for employees to carry out their roles is an important part of any disability programme as is flexibility and making changes to working hours or patterns should staff require it.

For some employers starting out on their road to becoming disability confident may seem daunting and come with an expectation that it’s going to cost too much money or will be disruptive to other employees, but this simply isn’t the case.  There are many organisations who can help with advice on how to become a disability confident employer, such as the Disability Employment Network and disabled staff just want to get on with their jobs and work with their teams.

After all, in the current economic climate, the cost of not being a disability confident employer could in the long run be more damaging to a business, who may miss out on incredible talented and bright individuals.

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