Seven steps to closing your disability employment gap and improving your recruitment offer to disabled applicants

Improving recruitment of individuals with disabilities brings benefits to those individuals themselves, as well as their employers. Miranda Coates, Programme Manager for the Supported Employment Network in City & Hackney, explains why.

“In the UK, almost eight million people (19% of the working age population) report that they have a disability, but the disability employment gap is 28.6% (ie only 53.2% of disabled people are in work compared to 81.8% of non-disabled people), according to a House of Commons briefing paper. Fulfilling work has consistently been shown to improve individual wellbeing in terms of both economic and health outcomes. Employing people with disabilities brings a wealth of benefits to businesses, too, such as creating a workforce that reflects the diverse range of customers it serves and bringing additional skills to the business.

How can your organisation ensure it has an inclusive recruitment offer, so that you are better positioned to attract applications from disabled people who might find their dream job working for you?

  1. Change your recruitment processes to remove any unconscious bias (simply put, where we recruit people who remind us of ourselves). Conventional job interviews are especially susceptible to unconscious bias so can you avoid or de-emphasise them? Microsoft offers alternative assessment options that test teamwork and technical skills rather than interviewing autistic applicants.


  1. Offer all management staff disability awareness training to reduce any stigma and to ensure that all managers empathise with the challenges that applicants can face. This training should also include examples of adjustments and support available so that a (newly recruited) disabled person is not left to sort this out on their own. Find out about the Department for Work and Pensions’ Access to Work funding available to disabled job applicants covering for example BSL interpretation or taxi travel costs.


  1. Explore what constitutes a reasonable adjustment (changes employers make to remove or minimise disadvantages experienced by disabled people). What is reasonable depends on your organisation’s finances and there is advice about how to get it right. Visit the Acas website for guidance.


  1. Engage with voluntary and community groups to build your recruitment pool; perhaps through holding open days; running mentorship programmes or working with members of the Supported Employment Network (local organisations supporting disabled people to find employment). How can your organisation signal that it welcomes disabled applicants? For example do you offer a guaranteed interview to disabled applicants who meet the essential criteria? How accessible is your website? (see


  1. Review your job application packs and check that Person Specifications avoid discrimination by not including non-essential requirements. For example, in a Sales Manager role that requires visiting clients, is it an essential requirement to hold a driving licence for these visits?


  1. Ask all applicants that you shortlist about any special requirements they may have and make reasonable adjustments to assist them (for example by using a venue with step-free access). If using an assessment centre process, you should outline the type of tests being used so that applicants can request appropriate support, for example extra time to complete a selection test for dyslexic applicants.


  1. Don’t ask about health or disability at interview, though if an applicant chooses to disclose such information be ready to discuss your organisation’s commitment to be inclusive. Once you have made a job offer you can ask about the applicant’s health and disability to plan adjustments and any other support. Have a look at Government guidance for line managers on employing people with a disability or health condition.”

For more information, get in touch with Miranda here.




Xenia Koumi

Xenia is a Public Health Specialist at the City of London Corporation and leads the Business Healthy programme