Being a disability-friendly employer has brought challenges and benefits to financial companies such as Morningstar, Invesco and Axa UK and Ireland, and in some cases also led to changes to workplace policies.
Speaking at an event, Demystifying Disability ConfidentHosted last month by the Diversity Project, members of the financial sector discussed their efforts to create accessible workplaces with the Disability Confident employers programme, a program that aims to increase opportunities and awareness for people with disabilities in the sector.
In a January 2023 report, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed a disability gap of 29.8% from July to September 2022, an increase of 1.7% on the previous year. While the years 2014 to 2019 saw an influx of disabled people into the workplace, with a net of 40,000 people with disabilities entering the workforce, 2020 and 2021 saw a decline, with a net of 70,000 people with disabilities leaving the workforce.
In an effort to bridge the gap for people with disabilities entering the workplace, the DWP launched the Disability Confident work program in 2016. The system consists of three levels of accreditation available to employers: Disability Committed, Employer and Leader.
At its basic level, the program requires employers to make a series of commitments and agree to take one of their listed actions to create an accessible workplace.
For second level accreditation, companies must complete a self-assessment and agree to business practices such as actively recruiting people with disabilities, creating an accessible recruitment process and “promoting a culture of trust in people with disabilities.” At the highest level, the program requires reporting on disability, receiving validation from an external group, and encouraging other companies to gain confidence in disability.
Morningstar, Invesco and Axa UK and Ireland are each part of the Disability Confident programme, representing levels one, two and three respectively.
Barriers to entering the workplace
Speaking at the Diversity Project event, Tom Pursglove, Minister of State for Disability, Health and Work, said: “The vast majority of people in our country want to do the right thing. They want to be inclusive, they want to offer opportunities.
“But it’s about ensuring workplaces have the right skills and the right tools to support disability employment.”
The Disability Confident Scheme’s September 2023 report found that 67% of those who joined the scheme reported a positive impact on the business.
Meanwhile, 37% of employers had joined the scheme had not employed an employee with a disability since registrationwhich was down from 51% in 2018. Even among those who had hired someone with a disability, 58% of companies had hired fewer than five people with disabilities.
Pursglove found that a barrier to people with disabilities entering the labor market was the risk of losing their job and having to reapply for other government benefits if the job ultimately did not suit them.
“People say to me, I would love to work… but they’re getting closer to taking advantage of that important opportunity and then the fear factor gets in the way,” he said. “The fear that you are going to do that work, that you are going to try, that it will not work out, and then you will lose your benefits completely, and then you will have to reapply and be reassessed. That has to stop.”
Morningstar driven by data
In a panel for Demisting self-confidence with a disabilityspoke to spokespersons from each company about their experiences with the accreditation and where they want to expand in the future.
Emily Brady, business partner specialist at Morningstar, said it took her team less than a year to reach the first level of accreditation, a project she began after joining the company in 2022. One of the key projects she has taken on as part of The initiative is making office technology accessible to different disabilities, ensuring it is set up before their new hire enters the office.
Brady said what pushed Morningstar toward the initiative as a data-based company demonstrated the benefits to the business.
“Morningstar is a very data-driven company, so being able to speak the language of those leaders was critical to getting that buy-in,” said Brady. “Presenting the argument that creating a disability-rich environment is good from a commercial perspective has really helped our business case.”
Invesco’s neurodiversity internship
Invesco has led its inclusion campaign by creating a neurodiversity internship across its UK and European offices over the past two years.
Devvya Sharma, Invesco’s EMEA D&I manager, said the program has been extremely successful in its UK offices, where it is working with a recruiter to find neurodivergent people for the program but have struggled to attract talent for their Europe programme.
Invesco also organized a training where colleagues could become a ‘neurodiversity champion’, serving as a frontline resource for people seeking help. Sharma said there are 50 employees in the region who have undergone the training.
“Neurodiversity as a topic is not talked about much, in fact, many people don’t even know what it actually consists of,” Sharma said.
See also: – What every company needs for neurodiverse inclusion
“Through our corporate neurodiversity and disability information groups, we have actually developed a workplace accommodation policy by colleagues who have experience and insight into what candidates and colleagues experience during their journey at Invesco. That is a policy that we are going to roll out.”
Axa supports older employees
Jess Hardy, Axa UK and Ireland Integration Manager, has worked with her team to achieve the highest level of accreditation, Leader, due to the prevalence of disability in a team of aging employees, with 25% of the workforce being over 50 years old Hardy said her team feared losing that talent if they couldn’t adapt. According to the Patchwork Hub, 83% of disabilities are acquired during working life.
“For us it was a business challenge, and the job market was a business challenge during the period when we wanted to become a leader,” she said.
“We really missed out on crucial talent because we couldn’t give them the reasonable adjustments they needed. I think by relating it to a business challenge, the leaders were willing to listen because it would clearly have an impact on the bottom line and the ability to do business.”
In reaching the final level of the plan, Hardy said one of the key challenges the company faced was around its diversity data campaign, an issue echoed by Sharma.
“People weren’t willing to disclose their disabilities,” Hardy said. “It was the second least answered question. We weren’t yet at a place where we could do anything with the data, because we didn’t actually have enough of it.”
Hardy said there had to be a cultural shift within the company before there was a positive response to the data, which began to occur just a few years after the program’s launch. She said working at a top-down level in small groups made people feel more comfortable sharing. said Sharma within her team, demonstrating the importance of gathering the information that allows for more open communication.
Axa is now working to create more accessible technology for people with disabilities, similar to Morningstar, and has hired a dedicated workplace accessibility manager to streamline the process.
“Everything you do has to take accessibility and disability into account,” says Hardy.