Onrec logo The Online Recruitment Resource

Disabled people shut out of job market due to workplace bias

Disabled people are being “shut out of the jobs market” in huge numbers due to the attitudes and discrimination they can face throughout the recruitment process, according to research published today.

  • A million disabled people in the UK can and want to work but are unemployed
  • Virgin Media and Scope respond with ground breaking campaign – ‘Work With Me’

Disabled people are being “shut out of the jobs market” in huge numbers due to the attitudes and discrimination they can face throughout the recruitment process, according to research published today.

These findings are echoed by latest Government figures which show that there are one million disabled people in the UK who want to and are able to work but are currently not employed2.

Scope and Virgin Media have responded with a ground breaking new multi-year campaign – ‘Work With Me’ – to support more disabled people to get into and stay in work.

An Opinium survey of 2,000 disabled people1 commissioned by Scope to launch the campaign found that when applying for jobs only half of applications result in an interview, compared with 69% for non-disabled applicants. Disabled people also, on average, apply for 60 per cent more jobs than non-disabled people in their job search (on average 8 applications compared with 5). 

The research found that more than a third (37%) of disabled people who don’t feel confident about getting a job believe employers won’t hire them because of their impairment or condition.

Employer bias against disabled candidates

The findings show that disabled people who are unemployed and looking for work have lost faith with the recruitment process, as two in five don’t feel confident about their chances of getting a job in the next six months.

Of those, more than a quarter (27%) believe they are less likely to be hired than a non-disabled candidate, while a third (38%) are concerned they will be seen as a “risky” hire because of their condition or impairment.

As a result, more than half of disabled people have applied for jobs they know they are overqualified for, with one in three of those saying they did so because they felt their disability makes them a less attractive candidate than non-disabled applicants.

‘Work With Me’:  Supporting disabled people to get into and stay in work

‘Work With Me’ is a three-year initiative by Scope and Virgin Media to understand and tackle the barriers disabled people face getting into and staying in work.  ‘Work With Me’ is inviting members of the public, employers, and Government to work together to address these issues more quickly.

The Virgin Media partnership with Scope is part of its own long term focus on improving inclusion at work and transforming the lives of disadvantaged people through technology.

To support the launch of ‘Work With Me’, Virgin Media is funding Scope’s new digital employment support service for disabled people due to be launched in Autumn 2017. The partnership ambition is to reach one million disabled people with employment information and support by the end of 2020, so they can get into work, stay in work and realise their career ambitions.

After working with Scope to look at its workplaces, policies and practices, Virgin Media is taking steps to better understand and transform how it supports disabled employees. This includes the training it gives to managers to support disabled colleagues, as well as access to buildings and practical measures such as reasonable adjustments.

The company has also taken a number of actions to improve the experience of disabled customers, including: increasing training for staff so they can offer appropriate help and support, and ensuring accessibility features are built into all new products and services.

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.”

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.

Lauren Pitt, 24, from Gloucester, is registered blind after losing most of her sight aged 13 due to a genetic condition.

She said: “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.”