The changing attitudes of UK businesses towards disabled people have been hailed, as the Disability Confident campaign celebrates its second anniversary.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has publicly thanked employers for getting behind the government-organised drive, helping to strengthen and diversify the labour market as well as giving hundreds of thousands more disabled people the chance to pursue their career ambitions.
Over the past year the number of disabled people in work has increased by 238,000 – the equivalent of around 650 more every day.
Iain Duncan Smith said:
The Prime Minister launched Disability Confident 2 years ago to highlight the clear, undeniable business benefits of recruiting disabled people. The success of the campaign is clear to see and I want to thank the businesses which have responded so enthusiastically.
I want everyone to have the chance to benefit from the independence and security of a pay packet. By continuing our efforts, we can give more disabled people that opportunity enabling them to lead full and independent lives and fulfil their career ambitions.
In total, 3.2 million disabled people are now in work – but the government is committed to increasing this by around a further one million as part of its ambition to halve the gap between the employment rates of disabled people and the wider population.
The aim of Disability Confident is to work with employers to remove barriers, increase understanding and ensure that disabled people have the opportunities to fulfil their potential in the workplace.
Marks and Spencer is one of the latest major firms to join. In total, 376 UK employers now support the campaign, including Sainsbury’s, Barclays and BT.
Tanith Dodge, Director of HR at Marks & Spencer, said:
We actively support people with disabilities and health conditions into work and are delighted to have recently joined the Disability Confident campaign, with a commitment to support a further 1,600 in 2015/16. At Marks & Spencer, we look beyond disability and focus on a person’s ability.
The second anniversary coincides with research this week from the Centre for Economic and Business Research and Everline, which found that small employers had 520,000 vacancies that they were unable to fill because of a lack of relevant skills. In total, there are around 700,000 vacancies in the UK economy at any one time.
Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, challenged other businesses to consider the boost that untapped disabled talent could bring to their workforce:
The attitudes of employers are changing as they wake up to the fact that treating disabled people fairly isn’t just the right thing to do – it makes business sense too.
The most successful businesses are those with the most committed and talented workforces – and no business can achieve that without being alive to the skills that the millions of disabled people in the UK have to offer.
This second anniversary of the campaign is our opportunity to push on and do more. I want all businesses to recognise that diverse workplaces are stronger workplaces.
The campaign was launched by the Prime Minister at an event in 2013 attended by employers from every sector, from airlines to supermarkets and banking to construction. Speakers at the conference included Easyjet’s Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, and the event was supported by Barclays Retail, GlaxoSmithKline and Leonard Cheshire Disability.
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