Disability is one of the nine protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010, and has been a focus of work by colleagues supporting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in recent months. In June this year we completed a review of our support for Disabled staff, and in November, the recommendations from this review were approved by the University Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and University Executive Board. We will be publishing this review, alongside the implementation plan which will describe how we will be making the changes recommended by the review, in early 2020.
One of the issues that clearly emerged from this review was that people do not always feel comfortable disclosing a disability. Whilst around 12% of our students have declared a disability, in line with the Higher Education sector average of 13%, the number of staff who declare a disability is much lower.
This low declaration of disability was identified previously, in 2017, and after discussion with staff and managers, one of our EDI targets set at that stage, alongside our Public Sector Equality Duty, was to increase the number of staff who reported a disability. Feedback from staff in 2017 showed that staff did not feel confident to disclose their disability, and were not sure how they should disclose a disability if they wished to.
As a result of this feedback we introduced a number of changes. We introduced new training for staff and managers on disability disclosure and what that means for you, we held sessions on making reasonable adjustments, and we put out new communications to staff about why disclosing disability helps not only the University in terms of monitoring our progress towards inclusivity, but you as an individual at work.
The introduction of the MyViewonline system has made disclosing a disability a simple process which staff can do themselves without needing to contact HR or a line manager.
Following feedback from staff and managers back in 2017, our target was to achieve a 2% increase in the number of staff disclosing a disability at all levels by 2020. This was a key metric, as our 2017 data showed that the number of disabled staff was low. The good news is that these changes have had impact – as of 2019, the objective of 2% increase in disability disclosure at all levels has been met at levels 2, 3, 6 and 7, and at levels 1, 4 and 5 we have made significant progress.
We recognise that there is still more to do. Our review of support for disabled staff has identified and prioritised a number of issues that we need to address, and proposed some clear solutions which we can work together across the University to implement. Further work will be undertaken in 2020 and beyond, to ensure the support we provide is as good as it can be.
In late 2018, the University confirmed its position as a Disability Confident: Committed employer. Since joining the scheme the University has worked to meet the commitments of our Disability Confident: Committed status. This has included ensuring our recruitment process is inclusive and accessible, finding new ways to communicate and promote vacancies to attract disabled candidates, offering a guaranteed interview to disabled people who meet essential criteria (candidates can opt out of being considered under this scheme if they wish to do so), and supporting existing employees who acquire a disability or long term health condition, enabling them to stay in work and feel empowered to continue to succeed.
Our programme of events that are run during December aim to educate and inform our University community in a range of disability-related topics. Please do make the effort to go along to one of these events – we want to work to raise the profile of the types of issues that our disabled staff and students face, so that we can continue to work towards being an inclusive place to study and work for us all.
Our programme of events has now been confirmed: Disability December Events
Professor Sarah Sharples
Pro Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
29 November 2019