Almost half (45%) of UK businesses admit to being apprehensive about hiring someone with a disability because of fears they won’t be able to do the job and concerns about making inappropriate comments or actions, according to new research.

The findings came from a survey of 1,000 businesses to coincide with the launch of Purple, a new not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving employment opportunities for disabled people by supporting businesses and individuals.

The organisation offers consultancy and recruitment services to help businesses drive inclusive employment strategies, while providing disabled people – those with physical or learning disabilities – with greater levels of employment support. The organisation aims to help more than 20,000 disabled people to find permanent jobs over the next decade, while simultaneously matching 25,000 personal assistants to disabled employers.

Purple’s research aimed to determine the current barriers for business in employing disabled workers and found that 22% of business owners and hiring managers admit they are worried about interviewing someone with a disability in case they do or say the wrong thing. Fears include using the incorrect terminology (32%) and not knowing whether they should help with things such as opening doors or pulling out chairs (38%). Meanwhile, 21% of employers said falling foul of discrimination law was a concern.

The findings also revealed that 43% of employers expect disabilities to be disclosed on an applicant’s CV prior to interview, despite there being no legal obligation to do so.

Currently, of the UK’s 11.5 million disabled people, just 49% are currently in work, compared to 82% of non-disabled people. For people with learning disabilities, the figure is just 7-10%.

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This research suggests misconceptions and prejudices are preventing disabled people from finding employment, with many being squeezed out of the job market at the first hurdle, regardless of professional ability, according to Purple.

Mike Adams, chief executive of Purple, said: “We’ve always known that being disabled means you’re more likely to be unemployed and this has a real impact on both the career opportunities and quality of life. What this latest research tells us is that in fact it isn’t disability that’s the barrier to finding employment, but the worries and misconceptions of business owners themselves. This isn’t just a barrier for disabled people, but for many businesses missing out on valuable employee skills and talent, as well as powerful consumer opportunity.

“With Purple we are taking a new, brave and bold approach to the problem. We want to work with business to address concerns whilst upskilling individuals to seize the opportunities available. We will give business and individual an equal voice and by not being afraid to tackle the issues on both sides we will change the conversation on disability employment.”


This article was originally published at Learning Disability Today. You can see the original here.

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  1. This article is so true worldwide, not just in the U.K…. I have had epilepsy now for 43 years, but am well controlled on medication.

    One can’t even get past a Recruitment Agency as one is discriminated against right from the start, never mind divulge the information on your Curriculum Vitae! It is also up to the person concerned whether they have the trust in the employer to divulge their medical history! It is a personal and tender issue.

    I have never hidden my epilepsy from a Recruitment Agency or an Employer, however, we still get discriminated against and cannot find employment no matter how capable we are!

    Not all those that are disabled are incompetent and can also do their appropriate jobs well!

    Thank you.
    Lesley Donnelly

    • That is terrible – I don’t agree with employers who discriminate against blind people like me, but I can understand their fears at least.

      Epilepsy however should just be accommodated and it is so unreasonable to discriminate in that situation.

      Employment is such a big issue for the disabled and society as a whole needs to tackle the issue.

      At the moment self employment is the easiest solution but self employment is not for everyone.



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