How widely adopted are disability equality policies and practices?

Encouraging employers to offer all job applicants and employees equal opportunities to succeed at work has been a long-standing aim of governments and interest groups representing disabled people. A first step for employers is often to develop an equal opportunities policy and a range of equality practices to help deliver this. However, not all employers appear willing to adopt equality policies and where they do so they are often little more than ‘empty shells’ (Hoque and Noon, 2004). For example, as the table below shows, analysis of the 1998 WERS shows that 56 per cent of workplaces with a formal, written disability equality policy neither made adjustments to accommodate disabled employees nor implemented special recruitment procedures to encourage applications from disabled people. Smaller workplaces, private sector workplaces and workplaces without a human resource or personnel specialist have been found to be more likely to have an ‘empty shell’ equality policy.

Equality Policy

Adapted from: Hoque, K. and Noon, M. (2004)

Recognising that employers often fail to implement disability equality practices unilaterally, the UK government has recently encouraged employers to adopt disability standards. Examples include Two Ticks and the more recent Disability Confident campaign. Employers signing up to these campaigns are expected to make commitments concerning the employment and treatment of disabled people. Research has sought to assess the potential contribution of such schemes by assessing whether employers displaying these symbols deliver on their promises and uphold the commitments expected of them. In particular, our research on the Positive About Disabled People Two Ticks symbol, awarded to 8,387 employers between 1990 and 2012, sought to identify whether employers displaying the symbol are adhering to the five commitments they are expected to uphold and whether adherence to these commitments is greater in Two Ticks than non-Two Ticks workplaces (Bacon and Hoque 2014). The analysis finds only limited adherence to the five commitments in Two Ticks workplaces and no consistent evidence that adherence is higher than in non-Two Ticks workplaces. We have also conducted preliminary research on the Disability Confident campaign. This research suggests that although the government claims that 376 employers are currently signed up, only 124 partners are listed on the Disability Confident website (as of 18 April 2016). Almost one third of Disability Confident partners are charities or social enterprises. These are often established by disabled people themselves and provide services to disabled people. Take up of Disability Confident is particularly limited in the public sector, with only 12 local authorities, four schools/colleges, three government departments and a single NHS Trust being partners. Overall, we estimate that Disability Confident partners employ a combined total of 886,255 people in the UK. This represents just 2.8 per cent of the total UK workforce.

Academic research within this theme:

Bacon N and K Hoque (2014) Employer disability practice in Britain: assessing the impact of the Positive About Disabled People ‘Two Ticks’ symbol, Work, Employment and Society, 28(3): 430-451.

Bacon N and K Hoque (2016) Evidence for the Work and Pensions Committee Disability Employment Gap Inquiry: Steps Required to Halve the Disability Employment Gap

Hoque, K. and Noon, M. (2004) Equal Opportunities Policy and Practice in Britain: Evaluating the ‘Empty Shell’ Hypothesis, Work, Employment and Society 18(3): 481–506