New guidance that stresses that employers are allowed to reserve jobs for disabled people should help narrow the disability employment gap, say the disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) that asked for the legal advice to be published.
Inclusion Barnet’s chief executive, Caroline Collier (pictured), realised there was a “genuine hole” in people’s knowledge of the law on recruiting disabled people, even among those who specialised in employment law.
She approached the independent employment advice and conciliation service Acas to ask if it would produce new guidance.
With support from Collier and Inclusion London’s Tracey Lazard, Acas has now produced new guidance for employers, which makes it clear that they can “specifically advertise for and recruit a disabled person without the risk of disability discrimination”.
Collier said the law that allows employers to treat disabled candidates more favourably by reserving roles for disabled people – under the Equality Act – could help narrow the disability employment gap, which still hovers at around 30 per cent.
She said Acas had been “really supportive” and the advice on the Acas website now “puts it beyond doubt” that any employer can make it clear that they wish to recruit a disabled person.
The guidance makes it clear that employers can also seek to recruit a disabled person with a specific impairment if there is a “genuine occupational requirement” for them to do so.
Collier said she hoped other DPOs will find the guidance useful, by giving them the confidence to reserve roles for disabled people, rather than “fudging it” by saying that lived experience was “desirable”.
And she praised Acas for being “responsive and ready to listen” on the issue.
She added: “With the current rate of employment for disabled people almost 30 per cent lower than it is for those who are non-disabled, we hope it will encourage many more employers to reserve roles in this way.”
The guidance was made possible through funding from City Bridge Trust.
Paul Hawkins, head of skills development at Attitude is Everything, which campaigns to improve access to music and other live events, said: “Attitude is Everything welcome this hugely important clarification from Acas.
“We know that one in five of the adult working-age population are disabled yet disabled people are underrepresented across the UK workforce.
“Our Beyond the Music project seeks to remove barriers for disabled people looking to work in the music and live events industry and we frequently find that employers are keen to have a fully representative workforce but worry that actively advertising for disabled talent may put them in breach of the Equality Act.
“We are extremely grateful to the teams at Inclusion Barnet and Inclusion London for working with Acas to clarify that the Equality Act does allow employers to reserve roles for disabled people.
“This gives us greater confidence when supporting employers to address the disability employment gap.”
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “We welcome the clarified guidance from Acas.
“They have made clear that you can specifically advertise for and recruit disabled people to any role, without the risk of disability discrimination and without the need to demonstrate that there is an occupational requirement for a disabled person.
“You can also treat a disabled person more favourably compared to a non-disabled person in the hiring process.
“This guidance gives organisations confidence that they can prioritise people with lived experience of disability for any job role, and is something that the government should be promoting and supporting, to reduce the disability employment gap and disability pay gap.”
Acas adviser Gary Wedderburn said: “Inclusion Barnet approached us after they identified a gap in publicly available online advice on what the Equality Act says about recruiting disabled people.
“We worked with the charity to expand our existing advice in this area, which now includes practical workplace examples around how the law on disability discrimination applies when an employer wants to recruit someone.
“It’s important for recruiters to be aware that the Equality Act allows an employer to specifically advertise for a disabled person and a non-disabled job applicant cannot then claim disability discrimination.
“The law allows recruiters to treat a disabled person more favourably compared to a non-disabled person for any type of job role.
“However, if an employer wants to recruit a person with a specific disability then they would have to justify that there’s an occupational requirement for that specific disability in the role, otherwise a job applicant with a different disability could claim disability discrimination under the law.
“We were happy to update our advice in this area and I am pleased to hear that it has had a positive impact.”
This news story is part of an ongoing Disability News Service series that highlights the vital work of the UK’s disabled people’s organisations
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