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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-confident-guidance-for-levels-1-2-and-3/level-3-disability-confident-leader
This pack provides the details on the process, guidance and links to resources, to enable your business to progress from a Disability Confident Employer to become a Disability Confident Leader.
It also includes the actions you need to take to renew your Disability Confident Leader status.
What’s in it for my business?
As a Disability Confident Employer you’re already benefitting from being able to draw from the widest possible pool of talent, and are securing, retaining and developing disabled staff who are skilled, loyal and hard-working.
By stepping up to being a Disability Confident Leader your business can gain recognition from:
- disabled staff in your business
- disabled people outside your business
- other businesses
- your customers
- the wider community
You’ll also be acting as a champion for Disability Confident within your local and business communities. You’ll encourage and support other businesses in your supply chains and networks to become Disability Confident. In doing so, you’ll be showing disabled people that you’re leading the way in getting every business to become Disability Confident.
Stepping up to become a Disability Confident Leader
You have already undertaken the Disability Confident self-assessment and are a Disability Confident Employer.
There are now 3 additional steps that you need to take in order to become a Disability Confident Leader:
- that you have had your level 2 self-assessment validated, and by whom
- that your validators agree with your evidence and assessment, and that you’re delivering against all of the core actions as a Disability Confident Employer
- that you’re employing disabled people
- by providing a narrative of the activities you have or are taking in support of being a Disability Confident Leader
3. Reporting on disability, mental health and wellbeing:
- by referring to the Voluntary Reporting Framework – You’re taking action to record and report on disability, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace
You’ll find further details and guidance on each step in the following sections.
Your business will have already successfully undertaken the Disability Confident Employer self-assessment. The next step to become a Disability Confident Leader is to subject your self-assessment to an independent validation. The size and complexity of your business will usually dictate how you go about this.
The process for validation involves the validators looking at each of the criteria and the evidence you provided in your Disability Confident Employer self-assessment and being assured that you:
- are delivering against all of the core actions and are employing disabled people
- can provide evidence for each of the activities that you’re offering to get the right people for your business and to keep and develop your people
The validation template will help you and your validators with the process. You should copy and paste the information from your Disability Confident Employer self-assessment to this validation template. Your validator will use it for their assessment and add their comments.
Many large businesses already have, or are working towards, a recognised external accreditation that covers all the components of the Disability Confident self-assessment – this type of accreditation may well validate the self-assessment for Disability Confident Leader.
Smaller businesses may want to choose from other options that are available to them, reflecting the size of the business. These can include asking an existing Disability Confident Leader business to undertake the validation, involving an external disabled person’s organisation with the necessary expertise, or involving disabled people inside and outside the business. You may decide to use a mixture of these approaches. The key here is having the self-assessment validated by people or organisation that can provide an appropriate level of challenge based on their own knowledge, skills and expertise.
The level of challenge should be proportionate to the size of the business. Suggestions of people, groups or organisations that can help to validate your application to become a Disability Confident Leader are given below.
Micro employers (1 to 9 employees) and small employers (10 to 49 employees)
Possible validating groups/organisations for micro and small employers are:
- existing Disability Confident Leaders
- disabled employees, customers or people in the local community
- local diversity and inclusion groups
- local disability organisations or network groups
- disabled people’s user led organisations (DPULOs)
- recognised accreditation organisations whose accreditation covers components of the Disability Confident Employer self-assessment
Validation advice for micro employers
To validate your self-assessment, you may decide to enlist the help and support of disabled people that work for you, local disability organisations or DPULOs that you may have worked with in the past or in your community. For small businesses, or those in remote areas, you might involve local disabled people that you come into contact with as customers in your community – the key is involving people who will challenge your self-assessment.
Validation advice for small employers
As a small employer, your business may be more complex than a micro employer and this will be reflected in the level of validation. The validator will require documentary evidence, examples of recruitment and retention policies and practices, best practice initiatives and evidence that demonstrates how any issues/concerns have been managed effectively. To validate the self-assessment, you may decide to enlist the help and support of a group of disabled customers or disabled people that work for you, disability organisations and/or DPULOs that you may have worked with in the past, or disabled people based in the local community. A list of organisations that can offer support is available.
Medium-sized employers (50 to 250 employees)
Possible validating groups/organisations for medium-sized employers are:
- existing Disability Confident Leaders
- disabled employees
- disabled stakeholder groups or forums
- national disability network groups
- local disability organisations, Work and Health Programme providers, network groups
- recognised accreditation organisations whose accreditation covers the components of the Disability Confident Employer self-assessment
- national disability organisations
Validation advice for medium-sized employers
As a medium-sized employer you’re likely to have a more complex business than a micro/small employer, and this will be reflected by you providing more detailed evidence to the validators. The validation will require, for example, documentary evidence, examples of recruitment and retention policies and practices, best practice initiatives and evidence of issues/concerns that have been managed effectively.
To validate the self-assessment, you may decide to enlist the help and support of disabled people who work for you, disability network groups, disability specific organisations and/or DPULOs that you may have worked with in the past. You may also be working with an external accreditation organisation – providing the accreditation covers the components of the Disability Confident Employer self-assessment, this would satisfy the validation. Check the list of organisations that can offer support.
Large employers (over 250 employees)
Possible validating groups/organisations for large employers are:
- recognised accreditation organisations whose accreditation covers the components of the Disability Confident employer self-assessment
- existing Disability Confident leaders
- disabled employees or customers/clients
- internal diversity and inclusions groups/forums
- disabled stakeholder groups or forums
- national disability network groups
- local disability organisations, Work and Health Programme providers or network groups
- disabled people’s organisations (DPULOs)
- national disability organisations
Validation advice for large employers
As a large employer, employing over 250, you’ll collect the various information and data that clearly demonstrates that you’re a Disability Confident Employer. The validator will require documentary evidence such as inclusive policies and procedures and may refer to the groups/organisations that you involved in the self-assessment process.
To validate the self-assessment, you may decide to enlist the help and support of disabled people that work for you, disability network groups, disability specific organisations and/or DPULOs that you may have worked with in the past. Check the list of organisations that can offer support.
When you submit your application to become a Disability Confident Leader you’ll be asked to provide a short narrative on what you’ll do to show your commitment as a Leader. You may find it easier to complete this in advance.
As a Disability Confident Leader you’ll encouraging other employers to make the journey to become Disability Confident.
How you do this, and at what level, will vary depending on the size and nature of your business.
For all employers, leadership may include:
- encouraging other employers in your supply chain
- using social media to promote and share good practice on Disability Confident, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and business newsletters
- networking with other employers in your industry, through business clubs, local networks, business events and so on
- being a mentor, coach, buddy or providing peer support to others
- engaging with other local employers to share good practice
- celebrating success, for example being nominated for or the winner of a recognised award
- being nominated for and/or winning local, regional and national awards for the employment of disabled people
- sponsoring or hosting Disability Confident inspired events
For medium-sized employers (50 to 250 employees) and large employers (over 250 employees), leadership may also include:
- providing validation of self-assessment to other employers
- using contracting to drive positive change, with supply chain providers encourages to become Disability Confident
Reporting on disability, mental health and wellbeing
From November 2019 Disability Confident Leader (Level 3) employers will now need to refer the Voluntary Reporting Framework published in November 2018, to publicly report on their disability employment. It’s expected that most will choose to reflect this in their annual report and accounts, or on their website.
We have also changed the terms of membership to make explicit the requirement that Level 2 and 3 employers employ disabled people.
The government believes that transparency and reporting are effective in driving the change required to build a more inclusive society.
What is the Voluntary Reporting Framework?
The Voluntary Reporting Framework has been developed by the government in partnership with large employers and expert partner, including leading charities, to support organisations to record and voluntarily report information on disability, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
The framework itself is a 2 page guide designed to be both voluntary and flexible, so is not strict about what employers should report and aims to support employers to take a first step on the journey towards greater transparency. It is divided into 2 parts: one on disability and one on mental health and wellbeing.
What do you need to do as a Disability Confident Leader?
To become a Disability Confident Leader, all businesses regardless of size will need to take action to report using the Voluntary Reporting Framework. The level of reporting should be proportionate to the size of the business. Although the Voluntary Reporting Framework is aimed at large employers over 250 employees we expect all employers seeking to become a Disability Confident Leader to refer to it.
The aim is that using the framework you’ll report on 2 areas:
- mental health and wellbeing
For each area there are 2 parts, part A and part B.
When you submit your request to become a Disability Confident Leader you’ll be asked to confirm you’re recording information on both disability and mental health and wellbeing. You’ll also be asked to confirm whether you’re already reporting, or intend to do so in the next 12 months, for example in your next annual report, on your website or through another medium.
The details of the actions you need to take are outlined below. You can also find the answers to a number of frequently asked questions.
Reporting on disability
There are 2 things you’ll need to do:
- part A – provide a narrative to explain the activities in your organisation in relation to the recruitment and retention of disabled people
- part B – where possible report the percentage of individuals within your organisation who consider themselves to be disabled, or have a long term physical or mental health condition
For part B, you may wish to use the question: Do you consider yourself to have a disability or long term health condition (mental health and/or physical health)?
For reporting disability for part A , the framework is not strict on the content voluntarily provided, as long as it provides context, is accurate and is complete.
You should aim to include information about:
- the context to the results of part B
- organisational policies in relation to the recruitment and retention of disabled people
- support offered to employees with specific disabilities
- the role of networks and support groups
- progression and pay of disabled people
- workplace adjustments
- employee engagement scores
For reporting disability for part B, it’s suggested that you report the percentage of individuals who consider themselves as being disabled.
- consider whether the data is reliable enough to publish, including looking at non-disclosure rates
- state the question used, if it is not the suggested wording
- explain the collection methodology.
Collection of information could be completed through employees updating self-service HR records or anonymous staff surveys:
it’s recommended that you publish both sources, HR records or anonymous staff surveys if held
you should explain where data was collected from
it’s important to be transparent with employees about data usage, handling and storage
Reporting on mental health and wellbeing
There are 2 things you’ll need to do:
- part A – provide a narrative to explain the activities in your organisation, in relation to supporting the health and wellbeing of your employees
- part B – report the output of staff surveys that provide measures of employee wellbeing
For part A, the framework is not strict on the content voluntarily provided in the section, as long as it provides context, is accurate and is complete.
Employers who voluntarily report should aim to include information about:
- employee take up of mental health support offered by the organisation
- training offered to employees related to mental health
- the percentage of individuals within the organisation that are comfortable disclosing mental health
- whether a public commitment has been made to adhere to both the core and enhanced standards as set out in the Thriving at Work review of mental health, and how you’re achieving these
For part B, the recommended questions below will provide a starting point to measure the wellbeing of your employees.
The first 4 questions are from the Annual Population Survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics:
- overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
- overall, to what extent do you feel that things you do in your life are worthwhile?
- how happy did you feel yesterday?
- how anxious did you feel yesterday?
The following questions (including ranking of a response to a statement) are based on principles of wellbeing, for example health, security, environment, relationships and purpose, as recommended by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing:
- all in all, how satisfied are you with your job?
- I would recommend my organisation as a great place to work
- how would you rate your overall physical health now?
- how would you rate your overall mental health now?
- I feel safe from threats and physical hazards in my work environment
- my line manager helps and supports me
- my colleagues help and support me
- I am satisfied with my physical working environment
- my work gives me the feeling of a job well done
What happens next?
When you have successfully undertaken the actions and activities to be a Disability Confident Leader, you’ll need to complete this form to request to become a Disability Confident Leader.
You’ll also need your Disability Confident reference number (this starts DCS00….), which is on the email we sent you, or more recently on your certificate.
If you can’t find your reference number, please email us at email@example.com
Through the form, you’ll confirm:
- you have had your self-assessment validated, and by whom
- your validator agrees with your evidence and assessment, and that you’re delivering against all of the core actions as a Disability Confident Employer
- you’re employing disabled people
- you’re recording
- where you choose to publicly report will intend to do so within the next 12 months
- you’re including a narrative of the activities you have or are taking in support of being a Disability Confident Leader
Once you have submitted the form
In return, we’ll confirm your status and send you a Disability Confident Leader badge that you can use in your own business stationery, social media and other communications for 3 years.
We’ll also send you a Disability Confident Leader certificate in recognition of your achievement and further information on how you can share your experience and provide case studies to help others on their Disability Confident journey.
You’ll also receive a regular newsletter and access to members only Disability Confident LinkedIn and Facebook sites.
As part of awarding you your Disability Confident Leader status, we’ll include your business name, town, postcode, sector and Disability Confident status on the list of Disability Confident employers that have signed up.
You may also be contacted by Jobcentre Plus, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and or a DWP Work and Health Programme provider to help you attract, recruit and retain disabled people.
Disability Confident Leader Renewal Process
This section provides details of the process to renew your accreditation as a Disability Confident Leader.
At least 2 months before the expiry of your 3 year accreditation, you’ll receive a reminder email advising you that your accreditation will cease from a certain date.
From November 2019 there was a change in the criteria to be a Disability Confident Leader. In addition to undertaking the challenge and leadership steps, you’ll also need to confirm you’re employing disabled people and take a third step – reporting on disability, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, using the Voluntary Reporting Framework.
You’ll find the information you need to do this in the reporting on disability, mental health and wellbeing section.
What do you need to do?
- undertake a review of your self-assessment and update your evidence template, including your evidence on Voluntary Reporting
- arrange for your self-assessment to be re-validated, details on what is required are contained in the challenge section above
- complete the actions in the what happens next section
Voluntary Reporting Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the Voluntary Reporting Framework?
The framework has been developed by the government in partnership with large employers and expert partners, including leading charities, to support organisations to record and voluntarily report information on disability, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Why use the voluntary reporting framework?
The government believes that transparency and reporting are effective levers in driving the culture change required to build a more inclusive society.
The independent Thriving at Work Review recommended that employers should report more information about their actions on workplace mental health on a voluntary basis.
In November 2017, the government’s Improving Lives command paper committed to working with partners, including employers, to develop a framework for voluntary reporting on disability and mental health.
The framework itself is a 2 page guide to support employers to take a first step on the journey towards greater transparency.
Does an individual have to tell you about their disability?
Employees vary in their preferences regarding what they tell their employer about their disability or health condition.
Some choose not to say anything because, for example, they are concerned it will jeopardise their future career prospects, or they are simply daunted by the prospect of the discussion.
There’s no legal requirement for someone to disclose a disability to their employer.
What are the benefits of voluntarily reporting information on disability, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace?
Positively managing mental health underpins good employee engagement and benefits everyone – employees, employers and the bottom line.
Every employer’s success depends on a healthy and productive workforce, and if employees feel valued and supported they’ll achieve more.
Recording and voluntarily reporting information on disability, mental health and wellbeing may support an employer to:
- improve employee engagement and retention, with consequent gains for performance and productivity – engaged employees are less likely to report workplace stress and take fewer days’ sickness absence
- put effective adjustments in place for that individual, giving them the opportunity to fully utilise their skills and abilities
- better understand the experiences of disabled people and people with mental health conditions in their workforce
- better monitor internal progress in building a more inclusive environment for employees
- access a wider pool of talent and skills through promoting inclusive and disability friendly recruitment, retention and progression policies
- set an industry example in driving a cultural shift towards increased transparency
- better serve and connect with disabled customers and communities, capitalising on spending power
- engage in open and supportive conversations about disabilities and health conditions to help enable employees to remain in work and achieve their potential
Why should I encourage disclosure?
Actively promoting a positive approach towards health and wellbeing by the organisation, and a clear commitment to disability and inclusion, can encourage your team members to feel more confident about telling you about their disability or long-term health condition.
The discussion does not need to be daunting. The term ‘disclosure’ sounds formal and has negative and/or legal connotations for some people. Using more informal, everyday language might help to break down the barriers around discussing disability. Ask people to ‘share’ or ‘tell’ rather than ‘disclose’ or ‘declare.’
Someone’s health or disability can be a sensitive issue, but most people would prefer a concerned and genuine enquiry about how they are as opposed to silence.
Often employees will not feel confident in speaking up, so a manager making the first move to open up the conversation can be important. Disability charity Scope’s report Let’s talk: improving conversations about disability at work includes tips for employers to encourage employees to share information about their disability or health condition.
In the case of someone who may be stressed or experiencing a mental health issue, the mental health charity Mind has information that may be a useful starting point for these conversations, which could be useful for any type of health issue as well as mental health.
Mind and the CIPD have also developed a good practice guide for managers to help them manage mental health issues at work.
If a member of your team wants to discuss their disability or health condition, conversations should be private and in a place where the individual is comfortable. Listen with empathy and respond with openness and common sense. You may also start to discuss possible adjustments and support.
Confidentiality and consent to share information
If an employee has told you about their disability or health condition, as with any personal information, this should be treated as confidential. You should give all members of your team reassurance of this.
Consent to share information about a disability or health condition must always be sought from the individual concerned. If a person does not give you consent to share their information, this must be respected.
If your team member gives permission for information about their disability to be shared, discuss with them who will be told and by who, and what they want and do not want colleagues to know.
Why is the voluntary reporting framework a useful tool for employers?
Collecting relevant data, for instance around levels of disability employment, can pose a significant challenge for employers.
For this reason, the voluntary reporting framework focuses not just on the publication of numbers, but also more broadly on the shaping and sharing of an organisational narrative. This captures how an employer is seeking to support their employees to create an open and supportive culture around managing health at work.
The framework includes recommended questions, a series of prompts to shape an employer narrative and guidance on collection and reporting. The framework is a flexible tool to encourage employers to take an important step on their journey towards greater transparency around physical and mental health in the workplace.
What is the timescale for publicly reporting?
When you submit your request to become a Disability Confident Leader, you’ll be asked to confirm you’re recording information on both disability and mental health and wellbeing. You’ll also be asked to confirm whether you’re already reporting, or intend to do so in the next 12 months, for example in your next annual report, on your website, or through another medium.
Channel 4: employee disclosure
Channel 4’s internal ‘Tell Us’ campaign encouraged staff to share their diversity data, particularly around disability. They knew that improving disability employment was not just about attracting, recruiting, and retaining disabled talent, but also creating a culture that enables staff to disclose a disability.
Channel 4 explained to staff why sharing their disability status was important to help them determine how they were doing, and how to improve and reassure them about confidentiality and how their data would be used. Channel 4 raised awareness of the range of conditions included under the definition of a disability, and because some find ‘disclosure’ off-putting, the campaign’s language instead talked about ‘sharing.’
Their centrepiece was a series of ‘This Is Me’ videos where disabled staff and their managers shared their stories, many for the first time. The senior leadership team launched these videos alongside the wider strategy, giving important context. The videos were incredibly powerful and helped to create a culture of openness.
Within 2 weeks, 90% of employees had uploaded their diversity data and the percentage sharing a disability increased from 3% to 11.5%. Suddenly, disability data told a more complete story and Channel 4 were in a better position to ensure their staff had the support to excel. This made them happier and more productive not only because they benefitted from more active support, but also because the burden of keeping their disability secret at work was removed.
Thames Water: our mental health and wellbeing narrative
Over the last 5 years, Thames Water has been on an incredible health and wellbeing journey and are proud to be a Disability Confident employer.
The introduction of a wave of proactive initiatives year-on-year has led to a more than 80% reduction in workplace illness and several thousand employees being supported by Thames Water for non-work related mental health issues.
Employee health and wellbeing has been at the front of business decision making.
Here are just a few of the steps Thames Water has taken:
- mental health first aiders introduced across the business
- expansion of the internal clinical occupational health team to support the business in case management, health screening, health surveillance and wellbeing
- an occupational health team which now processes on average 100 referrals per month, 98% of which are for non-work related issues (up to 80% of the cases referred every month are for those still in work)
- Water Wellbeing Week – a dedicated health and wellbeing week every year to act as a catalyst for engagement, openness and transparency
Transparency increases trust and Thames Water believes in being transparent about its health, safety and wellbeing status. Thames Water believes it can serve customers, support colleagues and work better together if it has a diverse, understanding and inclusive workforce, with employees who feel pride in working for an organisation that encourages, supports and respects individual differences.
More information is available in the Thames Water annual report for 2018 to 2019.