Diversity and productivity


Diversity and Productivity – Supporting Disabled Employees in the Workplace

Diversity in the workplace has never been so hotly debated, now that large companies are obligated to conduct gender pay reporting in order to publish their gender pay gap. Meanwhile, another diversity issue is bubbling quietly under the surface, and while it may not be attracting as many headlines, it is just as deserving of attention.

While 80.6% of people without disabilities are employed, this falls to 49.2% of those with disabilities. Though the employment rate for people with disabilities has improved very slightly year-on-year, there’s still a long way to go. The Government has recognised this and towards the end of last year set out a target of one million more disabled people in work by 2027.1

1.     Employers’ role in the Government’s programme of change

The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) paper Improving lives – the future of work, health and disability sets out a clear mandate for employers, managers and supervisors to:

  • improve recruitment and retention of workers with a disability
  • better manage employee ill-health
  • create healthy and inclusive workplaces where all can progress
  • provide opportunities for workers who need a more flexible approach2

Employers are obligated not only to prevent direct or indirect discrimination against disabled employees (both of which are illegal under the 2010 Equality Act) but also take active steps in improving working conditions and opportunities for those with disabilities.

2.     Hiring and retaining disabled staff

One common form of discrimination is failing to make necessary adjustments for employees with a disability. It is often perceived as expensive to make the changes needed but in most cases, the opposite is true. Consider the below for example:

  • Flexible working
  • Modifying the dress code
  • Allowing a colleague to sit/stand
  • Providing a lift or ramp, or suitable equipment such as a special keyboard or louder phone with an average cost of these adjustments being just £75.3

If someone requires assistance which is too expensive to reasonably implement, support is available from the Government’s Access to Work scheme. This can include a grant to help cover the costs of practical support in the workplace.4

3.     Should insurance stop you from employing disabled workers?

No, group insurance should not be a worry when recruiting. Medical underwriting is only required if certain policy conditions are breached. All group schemes have a ‘Free Cover Limit’ (FCL). This is the maximum benefit members can have with no medical underwriting, even if they have a poor health position.

4.     Making the most of technology

Advances in technology mean there is little excuse not to provide a disability-friendly workplace. The availability of online meeting and conference call centres has enabled home-working for many employees. More sophisticated software – such as screen readers which read the content of computer screens to visually impaired users, and speech recognition programmes to aid those with motor skills problems – can make a real difference to disabled people’s job opportunities and the likelihood of them remaining in work.

Where Group Income Protection is in place, rehabilitation consultants actively seek to find workplace adaptations and are vastly experienced in returning employees to the workplace.

5.     A return to work for the newly disabled

Becoming newly disabled is difficult and can become worse if an employer is quick to write off an employee. This leaves the employer without an experienced member of staff and needing to recruit a replacement, with an average associated cost of over £30,000.5 More importantly, the employee is left without their job and may struggle to support themselves and their family.

Group Income Protection (GIP) provides an employee with financial support if they are off work due to a long-term illness or injury. Additional support services are also offered by insurers. Particularly beneficial outcomes are achieved when employers engage with Early Intervention Services (EIS). When an employer uses such a service, 90% of employees make a successful, sustainable return to work after an average of seven weeks,6 removing the need for a claim payment and helping keep premiums low.

If you are focused on the diversity agenda, introducing GIP provides a tangible benefit to attract staff, ensures they are professionally managed and supported back to the workplace when absent and is incredibly affordable


If you would like more information on group risk products, get in touch with an Elect consultant on 0800 0232 785 or contact us here to learn more.



1  Gov.uk, Strategy seeks one million more disabled people in work by 2027
2  DWP, see here (p.4)
3  Disability Rights Commission, see here 
4  Gov.co.uk, Access to work
5  Oxford Economics, reported in HR Review
6  Canada Life Group Insurance – EIS Statistics 2014.



This article has been written in collaboration with Canada Life, one of Elect’s insurance providers. It is for information only and is not specific advice. It is based on our current understanding of the attributed research which may change in the future.