Martin Davis is MD of Pluss, a training and employment company for people with disabilities. He’s worked in this niche for going on five years. RB caught up with him to find out the dos, don’ts, whys and wherefores of giving an opportunity to handicapped candidates.
“It’s beneficial to have a workforce that actually reflects the community in which you live, work and trade with,” says Davis. “If you’re in an area that delivers services to the disabled then these employees will understand the needs of that sector.”
That makes sense. But what about the downsides? If you employ less able people, how can you be sure they won’t take more sick days?
“There is no evidence that disabled people take more time off,” says Davis. “In fact, the exact opposite is true. They tend to be a lot more dedicated. They want to meet their full potential. They’re also generally much more enthusiastic when it come to training. Like any other part of labour market, disabled people will have skills and weaknesses. You just have to find the right person for the job.”
Davis isn’t just saying this because it’s his line of work. At Pluss, 260 of the firm’s 500 staff have disabilities, so he knows what he’s talking about. The company turned over £20m this year, growing at 15 per cent, so there’s no question of sacrificing commercial success for social status.
The Disability Discrimination Act means that it’s illegal to turn down a disabled candidate purely on the grounds of their disability. But there are actually benefits to opening your doors to disabled employees.
The Access to Work programme provides funding for adaptations to the workplace – up to 100 per cent of the cost. Another programme, Work Preparation, provides a six-week placement for disabled people looking to get into the workplace. It doesn’t cost you a penny, as it runs alongside the Jobcentre benefit scheme, and it allows both employee and employer to try each other on for size.
Likewise, Work Step provides ongoing support for people with severe disabilities. If you’re interested, Pluss can point you in the right direction. The company was recently awarded Star Social Firm status in recognition of its huge contribution.
“It isn’t just about giving someone a job and a wage,” says Davis. “ This is about social inclusion. Self-esteem. Being able to go down to the pub on a Friday night with your workmates. These things matter.”
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