Employers cited concerns over training, accessibility and additional financial costs
One in 10 businesses in the UK say they are unable to employ disabled people, according to a new poll.
The survey, for Disability Rights UK and employment agency Reed, also found that a third of employers were concerned about possible discrimination claims while 12% thought disabled people were more likely to need time off work.
Other challenges identified in the report included managerial staff not having sufficient training to support disabled colleagues and businesses being unable to meet the additional costs of modifying equipment or improving accessibility.
More than four in five employers (84%) said disabled people made a “valuable contribution” in the workplace, but almost half (47%) claimed applicants were not always open about their condition.
Disabled people often bring assets like problem-solving, empathy and resilience to the workplace because of the challenges they have faced
With disabled people four times as likely to be unemployed as the non-disabled, the report warned closing the employment gap should be a “national priority”.
It makes a number of recommendations including expanding the UK Government’s Access to Work scheme, incentivising employers to provide disability training to their staff and offering help to employers and staff to tackle issues around disability.
The authors also called on employers to create workplace cultures in which people living with health conditions can feel more confident to be open about their needs.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “With one in six of the population living with a health condition or impairment, employers are missing out on a huge number of talented people if they don't recruit and retain disabled people.
“Disability and health issues are part of being human: we all need to accommodate difference.
“Disabled people also often bring assets like problem-solving, empathy and resilience to the workplace because of the challenges they have faced.”
Martin Fallon, managing director of Reed in Partnership, added: “We see first-hand the huge boost in confidence and self-esteem in someone who has been unemployed for a long time getting a job.
“Everyone deserves to be able to participate equally. That is why it is concerning that one in 10 people in business told us their organisation wouldn’t be able to support someone with a disability.
“Increasing the number of disabled people in employment must be a national priority.”
More than 300 employers, recruiters and human resource managers were polled for the report, Disability and Employment.
Bill Scott, Inclusion Scotland’s policy director, said the organisation was “extremely disappointed” with the survey’s findings.
He added: "Employers and governments need to work together to offer a range of support to people who are disabled and want to work, especially as the amount of people with impairments will only increase in the coming years.
“Inclusion Scotland and other disabled people's organisations are working hard to raise awareness with employers about the amount of skills, experience and talent that disabled people can bring to a workplace.
"We wholly support the recommendation that closing the employment gap for disabled people is made a national priority."