Whatever our personal feelings around Brexit, one concern is commonly discussed in the business sector – skills shortages. The negotiations have barely started, but the anticipated repercussions are already making themselves felt.

A report from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation showed a marked drop in the number of suitable job candidates in April 2017 in all sectors and all regions across the UK.

The lack of clarity about future immigration rules is impacting on the number of EU nationals taking up posts here, with their numbers falling by 50,000 to the lowest point in 5 years in the final three months of last year. A survey by Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that almost one in three employers stated that EU nationals were looking to leave their organisations due to Brexit.

So we have a situation where there are more jobs than candidates in nearly all sectors, with the CBI saying the government’s immigration targets will do more harm than good to the British economy.

And yet, alongside these real concerns, lies a largely-untapped pool of talent which could address much of this national skill shortage. Over 7 million people (17.5%) of working age in the UK are disabled or have a health condition. Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people in the UK, and yet there are solid business benefits in employing them.

Disabled people, on average, are just as productive as their non-disabled colleagues, and have significantly less time off sick. Retention is much higher among disabled employees, and workplace accidents much lower. Disabled employees can also offer inside intelligence on attracting the “purple pound” – the estimated £249 billion spent by disabled people in the UK every year. And disabled people tend to bring additional skills with them – skills gained to navigate around an inaccessible world which places obstacles in their way on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

The diversity of qualifications, experience and skills within the population of disabled people is just as immense as the diversity within the wider population. Employers who are serious about finding suitable talent ignore this pool of candidates at their peril.

However, attracting talented disabled candidates is not as straightforward as it might seem. Disabled people have experienced discrimination from employers for many years, and it is necessary to give them confidence to apply. Recognising the difficulty of this, I founded a not-for-profit specialist online job board in 2011.

Evenbreak is run by disabled people, and we engage with disabled candidates in a variety of ways, attracting many thousands to our job board. Our candidates tell us they have confidence to apply for jobs with employers who have paid to advertise on a job board specifically targeted at them.

Employers as diverse as Lloyds Banking Group, Channel 4, John Lewis, Land Registry, Tesco and many more are already attracting talented disabled candidates from Evenbreak.

We also offer support to employers wishing to become more inclusive and accessible through a newly-launched best practice portal – developed and led by disabled people to give very practical resources on how to remove disabling barriers.

With the right approach to inclusion, employers concerned about existing and potential skills shortages can be assured that many of those skills are available and happy to be employed.

 

Author: Jane Hatton MSc FCIPD FRSA is Founder/Director of Evenbreak, a social enterprise helping to make the world of work more inclusive to disabled people. She runs Evenbreak lying flat with a laptop suspended above her due to a degenerative spinal condition which prevents her from sitting at a desk. She can be contacted on janeh@evenbreak.co.uk

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