Rebecca: What do you think needs to be done to increase understanding of disability and the benefits of actually employing somebody who does have a disability?
Rony Erez, Senior Policy Officer MS Society: To start off let’s talk about the benefits of employing someone with a disability, because I think that it’s important to talk about that, because as we said, some people think that employing a person with a disability, someone with MS is costly, they might lose working days or they might need rest breaks or they might not perform at their best like someone else. However, the benefit of employing someone with a disability is quite clear because, for example, a person with MS, they usually get diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40.
So somebody who gets diagnosed around their 40th birthday has already got, say, 15 years of work experience behind them, they are skilled, they are dedicated, you know, they have experience and for an employer it really makes sense from a business case perspective, not even just from the perspective of doing the right thing for your employee, to retain them.
You know, we are in an economy at the moment where employers are saying that they can’t find the skills and, you know, the disability kind of talent pool is out there for the taking. So there is a business case absolutely there for employers to retain people with disabilities. However, we know that a lot of employers don’t really know that, don’t really understand what it is or what disability is, what they need to do, and there is a need out there to increase knowledge and to kind of show the business case as well.
So, for example, we talked about the Disability Confident scheme, that is certainly something that the government should work on increasing because that is a really, you know, good way of providing
employers with information. We talked about the one stop shop as well, we think that that should happen, that employers should have a one stop shop where they can get the information, and it doesn’t, it kind of stops making employing a disabled person so scary and kind of like this big mystery, you know. So the government can do some things, but we can also do that as well, you know. We’ve been working ourselves and with other charities to increase understanding of employing people with MS with employers.
So, for example, we work with other charities that deal with fluctuating conditions, kind of try and increase awareness among employers through various means like providing information on our website, on other charities’ websites. And also through having events where we speak to employers and we try to raise awareness of, you know, what MS is, what they are expected to do to help people with MS and to kind of dispel a lot of the issues that employers think might happen when they come across employing someone with MS.
Rebecca: And how do employers receive that? Are they open to that, do they change their views, or how does it go?
Some of them are, of course, yes. You know, it really depends on the employer. Some of them are less so. We know that bigger employers are more open to that, but they also have more resources, so it might be easier for them to employ someone with MS.
For example, they can afford and they have access to occupational therapists, so they can employ someone in-house to help them to help the person with MS to kind of find the best way for them to move forward, whereas smaller employers, they don’t always have this kind of, you know, resources behind them to help them do that and to help them provide reasonable adjustment and so on. So smaller employers are less easy to kind of reach, but we are hoping to try and do that in future as well.
Rebecca: And you mentioned obviously the disability charter that they can sign up for, the government scheme that needs to be expanded, if I’m an employer, what is the benefit of me engaging with that, what am I going to get out of doing that?
So, disability confidence is, yeah, so it really depends. There are a number of levels that you can sign up to, which we won’t go into, because it’s a little bit complicated. But you can sign up to kind of like the lower level which is that you pledge to kind of like, you know, work towards being a better employer, better practice in employing people with disability, to the highest level where you’re expected to be a leader.
So for employers who sign up to, say, the lower levels, it gives them access to the kind of leaders in the field that can give them advice and information and case studies of how they kind of dealt with it. Also, we have to remember that there are 100,000 people with MS in the country.
Some employers might not see many people with MS throughout their kind of lives, you know, especially if you’re a small employer. So for them it really gives the kind of, I guess, peer support, and also information from the government about what to do, like the legal obligations, best practice and case studies and so on. So they have a wealth of information from that scheme to help them kind of make the best decision and move forward in the best way for them and for their employee.
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