The UK Government’s Disability Confident employer scheme, designed to increase organisations’ understanding of disability issues and recognise the benefits of employing, retaining, and developing persons with disabilities, is the latest campaign in creating a movement of change and support for disabled persons within both large and small businesses alike.
Developed by employers, disabled people, and disabled people’s representatives, the scheme allows businesses to sign up to different commitments and actions that will be carried out to make a difference for disabled people within and outside the organisation.
According to Dr. Rosanna Duncan, Palladium Chief Diversity Officer, signing up to the Disability Confident scheme has been a positive step in continuing to catalyse change within Palladium, “Through new approaches to monitoring, we are continually trying to improve our understanding of the range of disabilities represented in our workforce and meet accessibility requirements in a way that works for our colleagues.”
“We know that when we have better supported our colleagues with disabilities and raised company-wide awareness around the need to be more equitable and inclusive in our approaches, we have seen real improvements in productivity and engagement,” Duncan adds.
Recent reports show that the business case for diversity is stronger than ever, but in many cases, organisations don’t look beyond gender and ethnicity. Diversity goes well beyond these characteristics and should exist well beyond the board level. The true value of a diverse organisation is one with inclusion and a sense of belonging where all employees feel that they can bring their whole selves to work.
The future demands new thinking, new approaches, and new solutions, but organisations that don’t consider diversity in its broader context, or how different characteristics and dimensions (such as neurodiversity) can intersect and compound inequality and exclusion, won’t successfully move forward into that future.
Palladium’s Journey to Disability Confident
Palladium began its journey in 2018 upon signing up to the Disability Confident employer scheme’s Level one – a commitment to disability confidence. At this stage, the team began to review processes, policies, and guidelines at both a local and global level, involving disabled people inside the business and setting a roadmap of actions.
“The pandemic propelled us forward,” explains Duncan. “It made us step back and appreciate our physical health but as many of us experienced anxiety and loss, we turned the spotlight to focus even further on understanding and safeguarding our mental health too.”
COVID-19 focussed the team to start delivering on many of the Disability Confident actions for people throughout the organisation, such as promoting a culture to openly discuss disability and mental health. But it also inspired the team to deliver more than the minimum and showed how easily it can be done – such as implementing flexible working for all teams.
To achieve level two, the business had to commit to several actions including, ensuring vacancies were advertised through organisations aimed at disabled people, providing a fully inclusive and accessible recruitment process, and equipping employees with disability equality awareness training.
The transition to level three required presenting externally validated evidence of how Palladium is committing and agreeing to the actions and voluntarily reporting on disability and mental health. From late 2020 onwards, the team worked through the self-assessment and collaborated with several individuals from UK organisations such as Delsion, Do-IT, Purple spaces, and Disability Rights UK who provided feedback and advice on the process.
In June 2021, Palladium achieved level two and after a rigorous process with partner Fedcap, who thoroughly checked the evidence, the team received the green light to submit to level three, which was achieved without any issues.
The Global Ripple Effects
Though the Disability Confident scheme is UK focussed, as a global organisation, the actions and commitments have had a ripple effect well beyond Palladium’s UK team, “We’re hopeful that much of the work we undertook as part of the UK scheme has inspired teams globally to focus more on disability inclusion, and we look forward to the collaborations across our territories,” adds Duncan.
“We also saw a number of other initiatives come out of it in supporting us on this journey, such as training a cohort of Mental Health First Aiders. But our biggest success has been the disability awareness week which we ran in early September,” Duncan concludes.
Globally, Palladium recently hosted a range of activities, discussions, and interactions on disability awareness. Many colleagues openly shared their realities and lived experiences, while the team ran multiple training sessions raising awareness of various disabilities and we shared literature and research on the subject.
From hearing about the work and projects global teams have delivered and continue to deliver for people with disabilities, from supporting sight impairments in Bangladesh to supporting persons with disabilities attend training in Timor-Leste, and supporting people with disabilities across Lebanon, the US, and the UK obtain employment, it’s clear Palladium is already committed to being a disability inclusive organisation, while still recognising the journey doesn’t end here.
What Comes Next
As part of the UK scheme, Palladium is committing to report voluntarily on disabilities and mental health within the workforce and promote disability inclusion across the global business, with partners and through supply chains.
“We will be working with our supply chain to ensure they are aligned with our D&I commitments and will be taking steps to better monitor the diversity of our supply chain as well as set them requirements on D&I. We will continue to promote disability-inclusion across our global business, our partners and through our supply chain,” adds Duncan.
Beyond internally, the team is also looking at how to consider disability inclusion in program design, but recognise also the cultural realities in the many places the organisation works, and acknowledge that there cannot and won’t be a one size fits all approach.
We will continue to share our journey and encourage you to follow us and join us on working to improve disability inclusion. We wish you all the success on this journey and if you are a UK organisation we are here to connect should you require further information or are seeking a validation partner in the future. To learn more, contact email@example.com.