Employers still discriminate against disabled people – it has to stop

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The findings of a new survey reveal the shocking extent to which disabled people are still discriminated against by employers, as a leading disability charity warns businesses are missing out on valuable talent due to ‘workplace bias’.

An Opinium survey of 2,000 disabled people on behalf of the disability charity Scope found that people with disabilities apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people in their job search, with more than a third (37%) believing employers won’t hire them because of their impairment or medical condition.

The survey also found that only half of applications made by disabled people result in an interview, compared to 69% for non-disabled applicants. Two in five disabled people said they don’t feel confident in being offered a job in the next six month, as Scope says unemployed disabled people have lost faith with the labour market. Of these, 27% believe they are less likely to be hired than a non-disabled candidate, while 38% believe employers see them as a risk not worth taking.

Scope says this has resulted in disabled people applying for jobs they know they are overqualified for. One in three of these say they did so ‘because they felt their disability makes them a less attractive candidate than non-disabled applicants’.

Lauren Pitt, 24, from Gloucester, is registered blind after losing most of her sight in childhood. She told Scope: “When I graduated with a 2.1 degree in theology, I was under the illusion that with a good degree, a strong CV due to all of the volunteering I’d done, and a lot of determination, I would find a job with minimal difficulties. This couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“I applied for over 250 jobs in a variety of roles but I had no response from about half of them.

“I think a lot of recruiters underestimated what I could do because of my impairment. In interviews, I spent most of my time explaining that I could do the job just as well as anyone else.

“Eventually I received an extremely positive email from an employer, inviting me for an interview and asking how they could make it best for me and if my guide dog would need any water.

“After the interview I was offered the job as an administrator for a social enterprise. It just shows how employers’ misguided attitudes can be a real barrier preventing disabled people finding work.”

Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive at disability charity Scope, said: “We have a huge amount of work to do to tackle the disability employment gap. At the current pace of change, the Government is set to fail on its pledge to get a million more-disabled people into work.

“Disabled people with all the skills to do the job are being repeatedly passed over for roles, while others are being forced to apply for jobs which they know they are overqualified for.

“Employers are missing out on the talent they badly need because they don’t have the right support in place or because of outdated attitudes towards disability.

“At Scope we want disabled people, colleagues, line managers, employers and others to get behind the Work With Me campaign and work with us to ensure disabled people have an equal opportunity to work.”

Scope has now launched a new campaign, supported from Virgin Media, with the aim of helping one million disabled people with employment information and support by the end of 2020.

Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media CEO, said: “Working with Scope has been eye-opening and we’ve had to face some hard truths to better understand and address the challenges disabled people face.

“It’s inspired us to launch the ‘Work With Me’ campaign with Scope. Together, we’re asking industry, Government and the public to join us and support more disabled people get into and stay in work.”

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