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New Bill:Disclosure of disabled employee numbers

12 March 2015

Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, has introduced a 10 minute rule bill calling for all employers to publish the number and proportion of people with disabilities that they employ on an annual basis.

The Bill - which was supported by Labour MPs and the Green party MP, Caroline Lucas - will receive its second reading on March 27. 

Philip Connolly, policy and development manager at Disability Rights UK said: 

“At present only one in two disabled people work. Specialist back to work government support is capped at some £360 million per year. That’s about £10 per month for each of the 3.6 million economically inactive disabled people so other measures are needed to dent the unemployment numbers… this Bill would enable businesses to demonstrate they have a good track record and a commitment to employing people from the disabled talent pool.”

For more more information go to http://www.debbieabrahams.org.uk/2015/employment-of-people-with-disabilities-my-ten-minute-rule-bill

Debbie is doing a pre-recorded interview with R5Live which will be transmitted on Friday morning. The programme will start around 6.30am and be featured through the programme. You can phone in comments.

Press release from Debbie Abrahams

 More than three quarters of graduates afraid to be open about their disability

  • 76% of respondents are concerned about informing a potential employer of their disability or health condition
  • 77% fear they will be discriminated against
  • 72% worry that they will be a nuisance to employers
  • Those with mental health conditions are least likely to disclose

 A new survey, conducted by GreatWithDisability.com and published today (Monday 9 March), shines a light on the reluctance of graduates to disclose their disabilities or health conditions to potential employers.

Openness: understanding why students are reluctant to be open with employers about their disability, a survey of more than a thousand disabled students and graduates, found that 76% are concerned about being open about their disability or condition to employers. 77% feared being discriminated against, while 72% are worried about making a nuisance of themselves.

Respondents included graduates and students with a wide range of disabilities including dyslexia, autism, wheelchair users and speech impairment. Those with mental health issues were found to be the most reluctant to be open about their condition (78%), while those in a wheelchair showed the least concern (39%).

Helen Cooke, founder of Greatwithdisability.com and an expert in disability and graduate recruitment, said: “This issue is of great importance to graduates and employers as well as the UK workforce. An employer is unable to make the adjustments or provide the support an individual may need to navigate the recruitment process if they are unaware of their disability or health condition. As a result, organisations often miss out on top talent, and individuals miss out on the opportunity to display their skills and achieve their potential.”

 The research looked into the best ways to encourage openness from disabled students and graduates. 71% would be encouraged by seeing examples of current disabled employees at the organisation who had benefitted from being open about their condition, while 70% said they would be more likely to be open if there was a dedicated member of staff to whom they could talk to during the recruitment process.

The survey also found that students and graduates needed to receive the right encouragement and advice from university disability and careers services. 4 out of 5 respondents said they were more likely to be open about their disability in an application if their careers or disability adviser had recommended the company as ‘disability confident’.   

Helen Cooke continued: “The results clearly show that employers need to communicate their ability to support those with disabilities and health conditions through the recruitment process and in the workplace. Websites are a key marketing tool for promoting ‘disability confidence’, and for showcasing examples of successful employees, including those who have a disability.

“However the problem cannot be solved by employers alone, universities need to do their part too.  Universities and employers need to work together so that students and graduates receive appropriate and helpful advice about the benefits of being open and the best ways to do so.”  

James, a graduate from the University of Bath who took part in the survey, commented: “Being open is about being asked the right questions…The right questions to be asked at interview aren’t about what you disclosed on your application form, but about whether you are suitable for the job”.

Jonathan, an undergraduate from King’s College London, said: “I want to be hired because I am suitable and can do the job, not because they have a quota to fill in their company.”

Key Recommendations

  • To encourage applicants to be open about their disability, employers need to market themselves effectively through the University careers services as a ‘disability confident’ employer.
  • Employers need to clearly set out and promote the benefits of being open, in order to encourage applicants to be open.
  • Employers must provide information about how the information that disabled students provide will be used and who it will be shared with.
  • Employers are strongly advised to include profiles of current employees who have been open about their disability showing the support they were able to gain as a result of this.
  • Employers are also advised to provide information, and examples, on the types of support they can provide and have provided in the past. Profiles / case studies of employees are the best way to bring this to life.
  • Employers must recognise that applicants differ in the way they wish to inform them of their disability and therefore need to provide a choice of how they can do this including: on the application form, by email, use of a covering letter and by phone.
  • Employers should try to provide a named individual for the applicant to contact either by phone or email; a named individual is preferable compared to a generic email address or phone line.
  • Employers should duplicate the information they provide to the University Careers Service with the Disability Office to ensure disabled students access information about them as a disability confident organisation.
  • University Careers Services must ensure that they are able to advise their students appropriately and that there is consistency in the advice being provided.
  • Developing strong working relationships between the Careers Service and the Disability Office will help ensure that disabled students receive appropriate advice from the person best qualified to provide it.

For more information, help and advice please visit www.greatwithdisability.com . 


For interviews with Helen Cooke, or case studies or a full copy of the report, Openness: understanding why students are reluctant to be open with employers about their disabilityplease contact PR Agency Four Colman Getty: greatwithdisability@fourcolmangetty.com / 020 3697 4200.

About Greatwithdisability.com

Launched in 2013, Greatwithdisability.com provides students with all the information they need to prepare for school leaver and graduate job applications and the recruitment process. The website is a platform for organisations to market themselves as an employer of choice for disabled students.


About Helen Cooke

Greatwithdisability.com was founded by Helen Cooke, a leading expert in disability and graduate recruitment. With a background in HR and personal experience of disability, Helen is uniquely placed to understand the issues both from an employers’ point of view and in terms of the challenges facing disabled graduates and businesses. Helen is a wheelchair user as a result of a childhood spinal injury.

Helen is also Founder of My Plus Consulting, a specialist company which helps organisations understand and address the issues around disability.


The online survey was in the field from 3 November until 19 December and 1,040 graduates and students took part, all of whom stated that they had a disability or long term health condition. Two further focus groups were conducted to provide additional qualitative data.   

Of those surveyed 34% of the respondents were male, 65% were female, and 1% preferred not to say. 68% respondents were between 17 and 24, 16% were between 25 and 34; the remaining 16% were between 35 and 74.

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