Staff with learning disabilities bring 'exceptional' talent, says Hilton boss

19 June 2023 by
Staff with learning disabilities bring 'exceptional' talent, says Hilton boss

Employers should provide "much-needed job opportunities" for staff with learning disabilities, as they can provide "exceptional" talent to a business, the managing director of Hilton UK & Ireland has said.

Stephen Cassidy, who was also named chair of UKHospitality last week, revealed Hilton has seen increased "employee engagement and business performance" following the hotel group's partnership with charity Down's Syndrome Association, which operates the WorkFit employment programme, and training college Aurora Foxes.

Hilton currently hires people with learning disabilities across front office, kitchen, food and beverage and revenue management with the support of the above organisations.

Shomari Burford (pictured) has Down's Syndrome and began his career as a doorman through the WorkFit scheme in 2018. He is now part of the hotel's operations team as a member of the concierge.

"We hope that by sharing our experience, we can inspire other employers to provide much-needed job opportunities for those with learning disabilities and help them reap the benefits that a diverse workforce brings," Cassidy said.

Figures from the British Association for Support Employment revealed the current employment rate of people with learning disabilities is under 5%.

Hilton has committed to running a free educational workshop in September to help businesses overcome the preconceived challenges of employing someone with a learning disability.

The initiative comes after a recent Hilton study showed that nearly nine in ten (89%) people with a learning disability in the UK struggled to find employment.

The research was conducted with OnePoll as part of Learning Disability Week (19-25 June) involving 500 employers, 500 people with learning disabilities and a hundred parents or carers of people with learning disabilities who had applied for a job.

Less than half (42%) of surveyed employers were likely to consider hiring a person with a learning disability in the future with 30% sayign this was due to concerns over suitability, 26% saying they were lacking support infrastructure and 21% due to the cost of additional training .

However, the majority (89%) of businesses that had hired someone with a learning disability in the past reported that they met or exceeded expectations. Nearly half (48%) of those businesses also recorded stronger team bonds.

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