There are a number of easy alterations organisations can make to their policies and physical environments to ensure disabled colleagues and employees feel more included and supported.
Often when organisations make adjustments and amendments for those with protected characteristics, they are reactive instead of proactive.
It shouldn’t be that workplace adjustments and internal policies are only revisited, or introduced, when a disabled person is hired within an organisation or raises an issue they are experiencing.
Changes should be made as the business learns, using new information to ensure they are cultivating inclusive workplaces, both in location and culture.
A new resource from the Law Society’s diversity and inclusion team discusses 'action points and easy wins' for disability inclusion.
It has been developed with the Lawyers with Disabilities Division and the Legally Disabled? researchers from Cardiff Business School, to help address issues highlighted in two pieces of research published by them last year. It offers suggestions on what to think about when creating or reviewing policies and how they should be reflective of the entire workforce.
For example, when looking at procedures such as recruitment or appraisal, have reasonable adjustments been factored in? Are external recruitment agencies including diverse and disabled candidates? Are application forms suitable for disabled people and are alternative formats available, if not? Can everyone (disabled and non-disabled) be asked at appraisal ‘what would help you to realise your full potential?’
Questions like these should be a compulsory part of the design of internal processes and considered when making business decisions.
Similarly, HR policies such as sickness absence, occupational health, training, performance management and remote working should include a degree of flexibility when it comes to disability – either having separate and more personalised clauses for disabled people or ensuring existing policies also suit their needs.
To establish what organisations need to achieve better disability inclusion, it’s vital disabled employees are directly involved.
Gather insights and information on adjustments disabled lawyers may need to be able to perform to their full potential. Organisations can then use these perspectives to develop better processes.
This would also be a great way to gauge if employers are indeed supporting their disabled employees as well as they could be.
The rate of disclosing disability is low across the profession, and beyond, which can make it challenging to identify disabled staff to participate.
However, showing a dedication to improving conditions, making adjustments and embracing inclusion may, in turn, help improve disclosure within organisations.
A more practical suggestion in the 'action points and easy wins' resource discusses implementing a disability passport scheme. Some organisations within the sector have already started work on this scheme which allows disabled staff to record agreed adjustments or support and to note if environments, virtual or otherwise, remain appropriate for their needs.
This system avoids disabled people having to repeatedly justify their support requests or unnecessarily disclose their disability, and issues, to multiple people throughout an organisation. The resource also suggests offering this to all staff so as to not single out disabled employees.
Another interesting point from the resource is on embracing imaginative job design. This uses people’s strengths to create the best role, and outcome, both for the employee and the organisation.
Particularly at the moment, when most semblance of normality in working has disappeared, now is the perfect opportunity to disregard traditional approaches and embrace a modernised way of looking at roles.
The legal profession should be flexible when looking at responsibilities, change them if needed and take advantage of the positives in diverse ways of working and thinking.
Organisations should put thought into how these changes will best benefit their business.
An entire section of the resource is dedicated to senior level engagement. It is imperative that inclusion, of all characteristics, is practised and supported from the top for positive change to be realised.
Speaking openly as a leader about topics such as disability will normalise them and encourage disabled staff to feel comfortable asking for better, more bespoke support or adjustments.
Actively contributing to the culture in this way, especially from the top, will allow people to feel safe and comfortable to be authentically themselves.
It’s equally as important that these conversations are had at all levels, including with and between line managers and colleagues, in order to make the workplace fully inclusive.
A more disability inclusive future is possible, but we must recognise we all have role to play.
Simple considerations can have a huge impact on progressing this reality. If we are presented with an easy win, we should take it.
Find the Law Society’s 'action points and easy wins' resource for both smaller and larger organisations here.
For further information on disability within the profession, take a look at the research by Legally Disabled here.
Aimey Sherwood is a member of the diversity & inclusion team at The Law Society