Disabled people face discrimination at top level of business, survey finds

Wheelchair accessibility is a problem when it comes to hiring disabled people, business leaders claim. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

Disabled people still face discrimination at the top level of business, research shows.

A survey of 1,000 business leaders by executive search firm Inclusive Boards has revealed the majority of bosses are apprehensive about recruiting disabled people to a senior position.

In fact, just one in 10 (11%) business leaders said they would feel confident recruiting a disabled person to a senior role.

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In addition, two thirds did not know any senior disabled leaders, despite about 7.6 million people of working age (16-64) – one fifth of the working age population – reporting being disabled between January and March 2019.

The main reason given by business leaders for being apprehensive was that they felt making the necessary adjustments would cost a lot of money.

This was despite the average cost of reasonable adjustments being just £75.

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On top of this, two in five 41% felt disabled people might take a lot of sick leave, while 45% said their offices wouldn’t be wheelchair-accessible.

And given the opportunity to respond openly, respondents also said disabled people’s “capabilities might not be enough to carry the job properly” and they didn’t think disabled people “could cope with] the high stress involved with executive life”.

Overall, a third said they did not think their organisation “would benefit” from employing a disabled person.

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Samuel Kasumu, director of Inclusive Boards, said: “[This] shows just how far we are as a society from truly understanding how to engage with disability within the workplace.

There are many disabled people that have just as much talent and leadership potential as anyone else.

“We need to educate businesses and challenge many misconceptions.”

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Earlier this year, billionaire Richard Branson backed a campaign to get businesses to put disability issues on their board agendas.

Experts suggest people with disabilities are about 50% more likely to experience poverty and 50% less likely to get a job.