Inclusive Employers and learning disability charity Mencap have teamed up to launch the first Learning Disabilities Work Experience Week, which is running all this week.
Inclusive Employers members have signed up to offer work experience through the programme, which aims to improve the employment chances of people with a learning disability, as well as raise awareness of the benefits for businesses in thinking differently about who they recruit.
Only seven per cent of people with a learning disability are currently working in paid employment, despite the UK’s unemployment rate being less than eight per cent, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics. Participants in the week include the House of Commons, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, South West Trains, Anglia Ruskin University, Strudel and McDonald’s UK.
Richard McKenna of Inclusive Employers said: “Our members have inclusion hardwired into their thinking and approaches. Inclusive Employers’ initiatives like Learning Disabilities Work Experience Week give our members new perspectives on inclusion and opportunities to harness different talent, strengthen teams and create opportunities for people who are often excluded from workplaces. Working with our member and partner Mencap, we have developed this initiative with the intention of breaking down barriers and creating cultures where all people are valued and all people can add value.”
Research shows people with a learning disability stay in jobs longer and are more reliable. They are proven to have low sickness rates and higher job satisfaction levels. Employing a person with a learning disability has been shown to offer a potential saving of £2,000, based on sickness/absence cover and recruitment costs. Many people with a learning disability are able to work and keen to do so.
“Evidence shows that there is much work to do to improve routes into employment for people with a learning disability,” said Mark Capper, business development manager at Mencap. “People with a learning disability have the same right to work as everyone else and they will become valued employees when given the right support. However, having a job is not just good for the individual; it is also beneficial and profitable for the businesses that they work for. Working with our partner, Inclusive Employers, we have developed this initiative to help businesses unlock the potential of working with people with a learning disability.”
A lack of work experience is a major barrier to people with a learning disability who are searching for their first job, so Inclusive Employers and Mencap are encouraging employers to take action. There are many barriers to employment for individuals with a learning disability and further complications such as access to transport and socioeconomic issues can make it even harder to find work. Work experience provides a confidence boost, as well as the chance to learn new skills and benefit from the daily routine of going to work. Having work experience on a CV also makes it much easier to get that first job.
Companies themselves also benefit through employing individuals with a learning disability. Mencap’s research shows 77 per cent of members of the public think more highly of organisations that employ people with a disability. There is also strong brand recognition among the learning disability community and the loyalty factor to employers is high as well.
Sharon Stanley, project manager for adults with a learning disability, Regional Outreach, Public Information Office, House of Commons, explained that the roles offered for Learning Disabilities Work Experience Week at the House of Commons are front of house positions, which will be great experience for the individuals taking part. She says: “We will continue to integrate equality, diversity and inclusion into our everyday work and this will empower our current employees to understand different work related needs; work the same, just differently. We also hope this offers a real opportunity for the candidates to improve their experiences and CVs.”
Karen Lawrence, human resources manager, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, said: “At Enterprise we respect the many differences that make each of us unique and know that these differences help to advance our success as a leading UK PLC. As members of Inclusive Employers, we are proud to be taking part in Learning Disabilities Work Experience Week with Mencap. Our commitment to being an inclusive company extends to every applicant, employee, customer and business partner. The employment rate for people with a learning disability needs to increase. We hope by supporting this week that we can help to change that.”