Tackling the disability employment gap: Recruiting and retaining Deaf workers

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2018 National Disabled Members' Conference
6 July 2018

Conference notes the recent House of Commons Library report on the Disability Employment gap which highlights that just 49% of disabled people between 16 and 64 years old are in employment, compared to over 80% for non disabled people. The disability employment gap therefore stands at over 31%.

For Deaf people in particular, finding and retaining employment can be a challenge due to a lack of understanding and awareness on the part of employers as to what Deaf people can achieve.

With anecdotal evidence of health and safety sometimes being used a reason not to employ a Deaf worker, there is a lack of confidence, and perceived lack of information, from many employers who are sometimes fearful of employing Deaf people, as they don’t understand their legal obligations or the support that is available.

While conference welcomes the recent increase in the cap, Access to Work remains the government’s ‘best-kept secret’ and many more Deaf workers could potentially benefit from the scheme if it was more widely publicised.

Deaf workers also face challenges while in employment, with communication barriers meaning Deaf employees are often the last to know what is happening and promotion often difficult to achieve due to employer attitudes and interview and assessment systems that do not take into account the needs of BSL users.

UNISON needs to be a first point of call for Deaf members and potential members. However many stewards and branches have no experience of Deaf members and need the appropriate skills and knowledge to offer support.

Conference therefore calls on the National Disabled Members Committee to:

1. Consider producing a guide to representing Deaf BSL users for branches and stewards to use in workplace representation

2. Seek to ensure UNISON’s resources on negotiating reasonable adjustments include the needs of Deaf BSL users

3. Continue to support calls to remove the cap on Access to Work which prevents some Deaf people with high-level needs from accessing appropriate support at work.