The focus on gender equality is part of a broader movement towards inclusion and equality in the workplace and many of the strategies used in the gender equality campaign are inspiring other groups as well as highlighting how far there is to go in some areas of inclusion policy.
Yesterday a survey of FTSE 350 directors by headhunter Ridgeway Partners found that, although FTSE 350 companies are on track to hit a government target of 33% of board members being women by 2020, eight out of 10 said they would struggle to meet a commitment to ending all-white boards within six years.
Earlier this week KPMG called on larger companies to use gender pay gap reporting rules as a springboard for broader diversity and inclusion. Tony Cates, vice-chairman of KPMG, said he wanted the boards of large companies to appoint a disability champion by 2020 to improve employment rates and customer service for disabled people. KPMG said companies should do more to raise awareness of the “purple pound” – the estimated £249bn spent annually by disabled people and their families – within their businesses.
One scheme which aims to push the issues of disability inclusion forward is the Government’s Disability Confident scheme, which embraces physical and learning disabilities and mental illness.
It has been in operation since November 2016 and is supported across Government and has over 6,000 employers signed up, at three different levels.
Disability Confident replaced the previous Disability Symbol ‘Two Ticks’ scheme and the Government says its core purpose is to support and encourage employers to attract, recruit, retain and promote disabled people.
It says: “Retention is particularly important with 83% of people acquiring a disability or health condition whilst of working age.”
The scheme has been developed with support from disabled people, disability organisations and employers and provides employers with free advice, guidance and information. All employers start at Level 1 and progress through the scheme at their own pace.
Level 1 involves employers committing to set statements and at least one action over a 12-month period. They do so by filling in a short online form and in return are awarded a badge that they are Disability Confident. They will then need to progress to Level 2 or reapply.
Level 2 is an online self-assessment process, where employers review their processes and procedures against set criteria. This can be completed at the employers own pace. If approved, the Department for Work and Pensions issues a Disability Confident badge for a period of two years.
Level 3 – Disability Confident Leader – involves the employer having their self-assessment independently validated by someone outside of their organisation. Employers will need to be able to demonstrate Leadership in promoting Disability Confident with other employers. This badge lasts for three years.
Employers who sign up to Disability Confident will also have access to specialist information from Disability Confident Leader organisations about specific topics, such as workplace adjustments; mental health in the workplace and recruitment and retention. Workingmums.co.uk has recently signed up to the first level and we will use the badging when we advertise roles for both Workingmums.co.uk and WM Recruit.
An employer which is further down the road is Medmerry Primary School in Selsey, Chichester. They employed Lizzie Baily who has congenital muscular dystrophy in 2005. She thinks it is really important for children to see that you can achieve anything, whatever your needs might be. Her advice for young people starting out is to be really confident about what they want. “Remember that you’re a person who happens to have a disability, so don’t let anybody else’s preconceptions put you off,” she says. “My advice to employers is to talk to the person who’s looking for a job. If you think they’re suitable then discuss their needs and how you can best support them to achieve an outcome that works for you both.”
Head teacher George Bell says: “My advice to employers is to have a diverse workforce that is representative of your community. Our children like Lizzie and they like working with her – and she’s a positive role model for disabled people.”