Quarter of employers say staff not happy working with colleagues who have learning disabilities
Mencap and Inclusive Employers have launched the third Learning Disability Work Experience Week to raise awareness and break down the barriers facing people with learning disabilities who are looking for workMatt Scott
Nearly a quarter (23%) of employers said they have staff who would not be happy working with someone with a learning disability.
That’s the shocking results of a Mencap survey of more than 60 employers that also revealed 45% of employers who have not employed somebody with a learning disability were concerned they might be more difficult for members of the public to deal with. This figure drops to 30% for respondents who have employed staff with a learning disability.
Currently, there are just 7% of people with a learning disability in paid employment, compared to 46% of disabled people. Despite this worryingly low figure, 79% of companies with disabled employees said this helps a company understand its disabled customers better.
Mencap head of employment Mark Capper said companies needed to get over the nerves they have surrounding learning disabilities and tap into the commercial benefits that such employees can bring.
“This survey exposes the nervousness some employers have when it comes to learning disability, but also how these nerves disappear for those that have employed staff with a learning disability,” he said. “The fact that almost 80% felt that having a disabled employee helps a company understand its disabled customers better present a huge commercial benefit to organisations.”
Learning Disability Work Experience Week
The survey also found that almost half (46%) of representatives acknowledged that their organisation’s job descriptions, adverts and application forms are not easy for somebody with a learning disability to read and fill in.
To help break down these barriers and increase employment opportunities for those with learning disabilities, Learning Disability Work Experience Week was launched by the charity Mencap and Inclusive Employers two years ago.
Employers ranging from McDonald’s, the House of Commons, South West Trains, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Sainsbury’s have all been involved in the scheme.
“People with a learning disability represent an untapped source of labour [that is] constantly overlooked,” Capper said. “With the government’s desire to halve the disability employment gap there needs to be a far greater emphasis on how to remove the many barriers that exist for job seekers with a learning disability, and we hope the employers involved in Learning Disability Work Experience Week can convince others to think differently about who they look to for staff.”
Richard McKenna, director of Inclusive Employers, said: “At Inclusive Employers, we aim to maximise business potential through inclusion. We understand that organisations who didn’t have much experience of working with people with learning disabilities may not know where to start.
“That's why three years ago we approached Mencap about launching Learning Disability Work Experience. We are thrilled that this initiative is growing every year and that participants from previous years have been offered employment. We are looking forward to many more success stories from 2015."
Sharon Pike’s success story
One person who has already benefitted from Mencap’s Employment Services is Sharon Pike. After a period of unemployment, Mencap helped her complete a NVQ Level Two qualification in health and social care and secured a work placement at a care home in South London.
Pike is now enjoying permanent employment after completing her placement, and works four days a week.
“I love my job, it is very rewarding,” she said. “I had been unemployed for a while but I wanted to come off jobseekers and be independent.
“The placement went really well and when the care home needed more full-time staff I applied and got the job. I’ve now been working there for over five years and I love it. I want to take my NVQ Level Three now and build my career for the future.”