I’m delighted to interview Mrs Jane Hatton, Founder and Director of Evenbreak, a Recruitment agency who specialises in matching employers with talented disabled people. It is the only specialist online job board in the UK, run by disabled people. She will share experiences and give advice on hiring disabled people in today’s corporate world.
Hiring disabled people: An interview with Jane Hatton
Karin Schroeck-Singh: According to your website there are 10 million disabled people in the UK. Is it difficult to convince companies to hire talented people with disabilities? What are the obstacles that you are facing when it comes to hiring disabled people and with what business benefits do you try to overcome them?
Jane Hatton: There is still a (misguided) perception amongst many employers that disabled employees are potentially expensive and risky. They are concerned that these employees may be unreliable, have high levels of sickness absence, may be a health and safety risk and might require expensive adaptations. Whereas well-documented research shows that the reality is that, on average, disabled people are just as productive as non-disabled people, have less time off sick, fewer workplace accidents, and stay in our jobs longer. We also bring skills with us that have had to develop to navigate our way around a world not designed for disabled people – such as problem-solving, creativity, persistence, innovation and determination. And from a commercial viewpoint, those 10 million disabled people are all consumers, spending up to £80 billion a year in the UK alone, so any organisation with inside intelligence into that market has to have a competitive advantage. I can provide sources for all these claims, and often use them when talking to employers about employing disabled people. We also have “Access to Work” (https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work/overview
) which will help pay some or all towards any adaptations required. Some employers are now more enlightened, and understand the “business case”, but unfortunately many more still don’t understand this, and sadly they miss out on this amazing pool of talent.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Are there any jobs or specific industries in which job applicants with disabilities seem to have particularly high chances of getting hired?
Jane Hatton: The wonderful aspect of disabled candidates is the incredible diversity of skills and talents they have. 85% of disabled people acquired their disability as an adult, and so had the same diverse range of education, experiences and life chances as anyone else. So we have candidates who are brilliant at IT, or customer service, or science and every other field you can imagine. Some types of organisations can target people with specific impairments. For example, some IT organisations (e.g. SAP) are particularly trying to attract applicants who are on the Autistic Spectrum, because they are often really good at spotting patterns, or errors. Other companies, particularly customer-facing businesses such as restaurants and shops, seem to like to employ people with Downs Syndrome. But apart from these rare examples, generally disabled people can do pretty much anything non-disabled people can do if they have the right skills and the right support (if needed).
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the five most important tips you can give an HR Professional who needs to invite an employee with a disability to a job interview?
Jane Hatton: The first priority would be to make it very easy and safe for the candidate to feel able to ask for any reasonable adjustments they may require for the interview process, without worrying that this might count against them. This could be the requirement for the interview to be in a wheelchair-accessible building, it could mean making a sign language interpreter available, it might just mean giving the candidate a bit more time to answer questions. The second tip, of course, is then to provide those adjustments effectively and sensitively. It’s also important that all of the interview panel have undertaken training in disability awareness and unconscious bias. It’s very easy to make judgements and assumptions about people which may be completely inaccurate (such as deciding what a candidate might or might not be capable of doing in the workplace). It may be useful to provide other forms of assessment (interviews are a notoriously poor way of predicting future performance) such as job trials. If other assessment processes are used, such as role play, or IT tests, ensure that appropriate support is given (e.g. signers or assistive technology) to enable the candidate to perform as they would in the workplace with appropriate support in place. And if possible, give feedback to unsuccessful candidates on how they could improve their performance at the next interview.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Do you offer any online assessment tests to your candidates before sending them to an employer’s interview?
Jane Hatton: We don’t get involved in the actual assessment process, as that is between the employer and the candidate.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: How well informed and trained would you say are companies in the UK when it comes to working and hiring disabled people?
Jane Hatton: It varies, from those who are highly motivated to be as inclusive as possible to those who really don’t understand the benefits of inclusion at all. Some of our candidates have had some truly awful experiences with employers (assuming a wheelchair-user couldn’t be a good tele-sales person, for example, or talking to a highly intelligent person with cerebral palsy as if they were a five-year-old).
Karin Schroeck-Singh: You have many impressive clients on your list of references. Is there any inclusive employer that impressed you in a particular way regarding their practices of hiring disabled people? If so, in what way did this company set an example?
Jane Hatton: All of the employers who use Evenbreak are actively seeking to attract more talented disabled candidates, and between them demonstrate some excellent practice. Positive action in recruitment, such as using specialist job boards and/or journals can be really useful. Also ensuring that every part of the recruitment process is accessible, inclusive and welcoming (from adverts, to application forms, to the short listing process to interviews and then job offer and onwards) is crucial. Some employers let candidates know up front what support is available to them if successful, for example, opportunities for training and promotion, disabled employee networks, buddying systems etc. Ensuring that candidates feel safe to ask about reasonable adjustments is a difficult one, but many of our employers have tackled that successfully. I couldn’t pick out one particular employer, but if we extracted the best practice from each, that would be a very successful employer!
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Thank you very much Mrs Hatton for your valuable time and for sharing so interesting insights. I wish you best of luck for all your future endeavours.
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Karin Schroeck-Singh is a trilingual Career Optimizer at www.Careerheads.com. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 20 years of international work experience in various industries in Italy, the UK and India. Her passion lies in creating multilingual, high-quality content in career matters, giving highly engaging public speeches and helping job seekers to optimize their career by providing professional coaching. She is the author of several ebooks, among them “44 Tips for a successful Video Interview” (http://careerheads.com/product/ebook-44-tips-for-a-successful-video-interview/). She has written several career and business articles for international HR and Marketing companies. Her favourite motto is “Learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime!” Follow her on Twitter @CareerHeads.