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Disability initiatives lacking in FTSE 100, study shows

Out-Law News | 12 Jul 2022 | 9:45 am |

Amy Hextell tells HRNews about failings in relation to disability initiatives in the FTSE 100

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  • Transcript

    The majority of the UK’s FTSE 100 firms do not offer initiatives to support disabled and neurodiverse employees. Whilst almost every one of them had an inclusive mission statement, just 37 had sustainable disability initiatives in place. We’ll consider that.

    This is a study by Agility in Mind, which looked at the reports of FTSE 100 firms and polled 250 business leaders. Only a quarter described their race or gender equality initiatives as ‘highly effective’ with just 16% saying the same about their neurodiversity initiatives.

    For those firms in the FS sector the report makes stark reading in light of the recent announcement by the FCA requiring listed companies to report against targets for female and ethnic minority representation on boards and in executive management. 

    People Management reports on Agility in Mind’s report and quotes Michelle Meakin its business services director. She said ‘Our audit reveals that many well-intentioned leaders have pledges and goals to reach it. What we are seeing is that most are struggling to enact the type of top-down organisational change that is required to be successful – and that the pace of real action even amongst public-facing companies is very slow.’

    So why is progress slow and what can employers do about it? Amy Hextell has been advising a number of clients with their disability initiatives and earlier she joined me by video-link to discuss it: 

    Amy Hextell: “I think what this report highlights is that it's not enough anymore to just have good things to say about disability inclusion without having the tangible outputs and actions to be able to back that up. They need to be sustainable initiatives that have been properly thought through. I think the report also highlights that there's now, you know, a lot of talk about neurodiversity and inclusivity for different ways of thinking, but only four of the top FTSE 100 companies had specific neurodiversity initiatives in place so there's clearly quite a lot of work to do there because I think that it would be reasonable, given what you hear, generally to suppose that lots of top companies are acting on this, when, in fact, this report has discovered that in reality they're not. I think that there's clearly a lot of work to be done in this space and I think what's particularly disappointing is that lots of these employees in the top FTSE 100 will be really great places to work, they'll have won awards for their diversity and inclusion initiatives, but what is clear is that there's an awful lot of catching up to be done in the space of disability, as compared to initiatives and support for other types of protected characteristics. So, for example, in relation to gender equality in the workplace, or the inclusion of those from an LGBTQ+ background. It also comes off the back of reports that the disability pay gap has widened in the last year rather than closing and of course, whilst that's not mandatory, reporting requirements at the moment, and there's some suggestion that that it might not ever be. It's obviously disappointing that in a year following the global pandemic, where there was an awful lot of talk about disability, with long COVID, and the impact on people's mental health, that actually the disability pay gap has widened this year.”

    Joe Glavina: “So what should employers be doing about it. Anything new?”

    Amy Hextell: “We're seeing increased reference, I suppose, and pressure from the Health and Safety Executive now in relation to mental health and psychosocial risk, which is something fairly new for them in probably the last 12 months or so. Prior to that, health and safety in the workplace has very significantly been based around physical health and safety, rather than mental health and safety at work, and in certain sectors, physical health and safety is taken extremely importantly. So, in manufacturing and construction for example, the physical health and safety is a is a non-negotiable. I think with the increased pressure from the HSE in this space it's likely to be the case that we see more regulation, or at least certainly an expectation, in the meantime, that employers are doing more around mental health and safety and psychosocial risk and that, therefore, what HR professionals should be doing is engaging proactively now with their health and safety colleagues to be having joint mandate joint discussions about exactly this sort of thing. I think some of the other things that employers could be doing is, when it comes to reasonable adjustments, there's been a bit of a shift in language. So, perhaps we're moving towards a place of talking about workplace adjustments rather than reasonable adjustments, which is inclusive of all and focuses not just on those who might meet the legal definition of having a disability but those who require additional support at work to be able to fulfil their roles and also perhaps moving to centralise budgets and systems in relation to workplace adjustments, because that has the ability then to ensure that there's more rigour, more oversight, of the types of adjustments that are being put in place, and they're perhaps more regularly reviewed than if they are just left down to individual line managers or individual departments.”

    On the subject of disability inclusion, back in January Amy Hextell talked to this programme about why it’s important to be transparent with employees about data usage, handling, and storage – that’s: ‘Disability inclusion 'a prerequisite' for meaningful workforce reporting’ and is available for viewing now from the Out-Law website.

    LINKS
    - Link to HRNews programme ‘Disability inclusion 'a prerequisite' for meaningful workforce reporting’