Sector News

Shockingly low percentage of job seekers willing to disclose disability, survey shows

January 29, 2023
Diversity & Inclusion

When it comes to looking for employment, it would appear that disclosing a disability to a prospective employer is still very much taboo.

Despite endeavors in recent years from the likes of The Valuable 500, Disability:IN and many other campaigning organizations to insert disability firmly into the workplace DE&I conversation – in 2023, candidates with disabilities remain pessimistic about their potential to bring their true selves to work.

In a recent survey of 3,000 job seekers with disabilities undertaken by accessible job board Evenbreak and YouGov, less than a quarter (23%) said they would disclose on application and 12% at the interview stage.

Survey data further revealed that 30% of respondents felt employers only hire disabled candidates to fill quotas.

The research was undertaken in the U.K. where there are some 14.1 million disabled people and a disability employment rate of around 52%.

Choices around disclosure are commonly associated with candidates with invisible disabilities who might have the flexibility to decide whether to disclose at interview, wait for a formal offer or even hold out until they have spent some time in the role.

The latter option is, of course, trickier for those that require clear and distinct workplace accommodations to undertake their job effectively.

Ultimately, due to the nature of the process, disclosure and its precise timing remain important decisions for candidates with both visible and invisible disabilities.

After all, the recruitment process begins for most behind the relative anonymity of a screen and online application portal. Those with obvious physical disabilities, such as mobility difficulties, might justifiably take a punt on a strong resume getting them to the interview stage where they can demonstrate presence and personality despite some potential awkwardness if no previous disclosure was made.

However, it is inaccurate to consider disabilities as being polarized into distinct visible and invisible categories. Instead, they exist on a wide spectrum and there is often a great deal of crossover even within the same individual.

Take for example the early stages of a neurological condition like multiple sclerosis which often affects younger people just beginning their careers. For some, at this stage of the disease, difficulties with walking can be unpredictable and transient depending on whether one is having a bad day.

Naturally, this type of uncertainty feeds further into a sense of anxiety around disclosure and indeed performance at interview or on the job – with a genuine fear that others simply won’t understand.

Further expanding on the myriad of difficult decisions disabled candidates are forced to make throughout the recruitment process, Jane Hatton CEO of Evenbreak said:

“It’s clear that many disabled people have to think carefully about when, or if, to mention their disability to potential employers. This is a real dilemma – if they mention it, they risk being discriminated against, and if they don’t, they can’t ask for any adjustments they might need and may be at a disadvantage. This is a stress not encountered by the non-disabled candidates they may be competing against for jobs.”

A two-way conversation
Speaking to HR Magazine about the survey, Terry Payne Managing Director of digital media and marketing recruitment agency Aspire said: “With issues around skill shortages, employing people that you can retain and depend on is a must.”

“Studies show that disabled employees are on average just as productive as non-disabled employees but tend to have less time off sick and stay in their jobs longer.”

Payne further emphasized the importance of organizations maintaining a transparent diversity and inclusion policy with clear deliverables and a focus on staff training.

In the final analysis, this perhaps speaks to the ultimate irony around the disclosure debate and the key to potentially unlocking an equitable workplace for all.

It is not the candidate who should be agonizing and concerned about whether or not to disclose a disability. It should be the organization declaring from the outset through every medium associated with their recruitment cycle that they are open for business and well aware that this means being open to everyone.

by Gus Alexiou

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