There are more than seven million disabled people of working age in the UK, but there is a large gap between their employment prospects and those for people who are non-disabled. And the skills shortage in the hotel and catering industries means it makes sense that operators should look at the opportunities that disabled people offer.
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge general manager Daniel Pedreschi employs a number of disabled people at the hotel across different departments. The hotel won the Cateys 2014 Accessibility Award. Pedreschi says: "We look at the ability of the potential disabled person, what can they do to help us and how can we welcome the disabled person into or back to work. We have employed people using a wheelchair, those with a hearing and sight impairment, as well as people with learning difficulties."
However, Pedreschi is still in the minority in terms of open-minded employers. But there are real and clear benefits of employing disabled people. They include:
- The opportunity to increase the number of good-quality applicants to your role.
- To create a workforce that matches your customer base and the community you work in.
- To add extra skills to the business, such as staff who can use British Sign Language (BSL), which could help you improve your service for deaf people.
- The ability to retain an experienced and well-trained employee who may have recently acquired an impairment, which is often cheaper than recruiting and training new staff.
You may be able to get help from Access to Work towards some costs where an individual requires support or adaptations.
Just as when you look after disabled guests, you can't discriminate against disabled people at any stage of the recruitment process. This means making job adverts accessible to all those who can do the job, whether or not they are disabled, such as:
- Having a font that is easy and large enough to read.
- Making sure you don't exclude any section of the job community.
- Stating clearly that you have an equal opportunities policy.
- Ensuring you include in your person specification only the skills and experience that are vital to the job.
- Don't set criteria that excludes certain groups, for example, by stating that applicants must have a driving licence when there is no requirement to use a vehicle.
- Providing alternative formats for applications, such as a paper-based form rather than an online application.
When employing a disabled person, think carefully about the questions you ask during the recruitment process. There is a very helpful booklet available to download from www.gov.uk that covers this area, called Equality Act 2010: What do I Need to Know?
What are reasonable adjustments?
The term 'reasonable adjustment' comes from the Equality Act 2010, but what does it really mean? Here are a few examples for different types of impairment or disability.
Physically impaired employees
- Provide computer equipment with modifications to hardware, or voice-activated software.
- Agree an emergency evacuation procedure if assistance is required to get down stairs.
- Make sure that the layout of the working environment is free from obstructions.
- Ensure that information is provided in an accessible format.
- Provide a seat in a quiet area, such as a corner away from the most distracting noise.
- Provide a telephone with adjustable volume and a light to signify an incoming call.
Blind or partially sighted employees
- Other staff should have training in visual impairments.
- Provide documents in audio or large-print formats.
- Undertake a risk assessment of the workplace.
- Provide a work colleague to give a tour of the workplace.
- Ensure there is software that magnifies on-screen text and converts text to sound.
Employees with a mental health condition
- Offer flexible working patterns.
- Change their work environment, for example, by providing a quiet place to work.
- Work with them to create a plan to help them manage their condition.
- Allow them the time off work to attend appointments that are connected with their mental health.
Arnold Fewell runs online training resourcewww.accesschamp.co.ukand is the managing director of AVF Marketing