Supply chain professionals are increasingly being asked to include disabled people in their hiring plans. And there are real benefits in terms uncovering hidden talent and workforce loyalty.
Former foundry worker John Hazard, employed in the home delivery department of Asda’s South Shields supermarket, is one of thousands of disabled employees who work in logistics.
Hazard, who assembles internet shopping orders, had to give up his work in heavy industry after he developed vibration white finger. He spent 18 months unemployed before finding his present job through a recruitment service run by Remploy, a firm that provides employment for disabled people.
As populations in the developed world age there are more disabled people alive today than ever and logistics managers are increasingly being asked to include disabled employees in their hiring plans.
Disabled people make up around 15 per cent of the world’s population, so it is not surprising that governments and groups that represent disabled people are putting pressure on employers to do more to accommodate them.
Legislation requiring employers to invest in adjustments that make it easier for disabled people to work in their organisations has already been introduced in many countries and tougher regulation is in the pipeline. But managers are also being influenced by stakeholders who these days expect a company to take its social responsibilities seriously.
The pay off for organisations that are inclusive can be considerable: access to hidden pools of talent, as well as a more cohesive and loyal workforce, not to mention the good opinion of disabled customers, investors and business partners.
“Any business wants to employ the right person in the right job,” says Susan Scott-Parker, who heads the Employers’ Forum on Disability in the UK. “There are over ten million disabled people in the UK, and it doesn’t make business sense for a company to close themselves off from that talent pool.”
Ceva Logistics has a well established diversity and inclusion programme. “At Ceva we believe it is the ‘ability’ in ‘disability’ that matters,” says Pilar Garcia Sanchez, Ceva’s HR manager global head office, diversity and inclusion. “As a performance driven company, we only hire and promote the best available candidates regardless of their gender, race or disability.”
In the UK, employers are legally responsible under the Equality Act for ensuring that discrimination does not occur in the workplace, disability charity Shaw Trust points out.
The law obliges firms to make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities. Employers are required to make adjustments to recruitment processes, work arrangements and the working environment to accommodate disabled people.
“The Equality Act is there to protect disabled people from discrimination,” explains Scott-Parker. “The principle for employers to remember is the need to treat people differently to treat them fairly. The best employers move beyond legal compliance to think about how to make their workforce inclusive and make sure all staff have got what they need to bring all their skills to the job.”
Some disabled employees might need a reasonable adjustment. However, most adjustments cost less than £100 and are fairly simple to make.
Some common examples are providing a special mouse or keyboard; making sure the accessibility features of computer software are switched on; or ensuring a company’s internal communications are accessible.
“Employers who want to attract and recruit disabled candidates need to ensure that their recruitment processes are barrier-free,” Scott-Parker points out. “This can mean looking at job descriptions, making sure job adverts convey that you are a disability confident company, and ensuring online recruitment processes are accessible.”
Ceva takes a three-step approach: first increasing internal awareness of its diversity and inclusion programme; second training managers and HR recruitment teams on how to recruit or facilitate accommodations to employees with disabilities, and third to focus on what people can do.
“In certain geographies, we have taken a proactive approach, for example working with agencies specialised in recruiting people with disabilities, participating in career events for people with disabilities, offering internships to young people with disabilities or connecting with our communities,” observes Garcia Sanchez.
Although the laws differ country by country, Ceva aims to remove the barriers that can prevent people with disabilities from working and to maximise the skills of each individual. Adaptations include:
- Changing working arrangements: such as home working, teleconferencing facilities or simply adjusting start and finish times.
- Providing tools that will enable employees to do their job effectively. They can be technology or equipment, such as Braille readers, voice-activated software and amplified telephone equipment, or communicating instructions and creating manuals in alternate formats (Braille, large print, audio) or easy read formats (simplified language or pictures).
- Improving access to buildings by providing ramps at entrances, alternatives to stairs, and accessible toilets. Systems to ensure people who are deaf “hear” a fire alarm, such as a buddy or vibrating pager.
“We want sustainable processes where managers are supported in hiring employees with disabilities,” maintains Garcia Sanchez. “A diverse workforce adds value to any company, and we believe that to be a successful business, we need to be able to reflect and engage with our customers, communities and employees – on all levels.”