I’m going to ask you a question now that will test you. A candidate applies for a role with you, on paper they’re fantastic; they’ve worked for one of your competitors so know your industry really well, have excellent qualifications and their salary expectations are in line with your package. Then, they declare on their application that they need an adjustment to go through a recruitment process because they are deaf. What is your reaction? Be honest, with yourself at least.
A number of things will probably run through your mind, ‘they can’t come in to meetings’, ‘they can’t take calls, ‘they won’t fit in to the office well’, and if you’re a practical kind of person ‘they won’t hear the fire alarm’.
So, what is your next move? I guess a lot of people, probably not you though, will move the application to the REJECT pile, thinking they’ll be able to make up an excuse as to why the candidate wasn’t chosen for the shortlist if they’re ever challenged.
But really, what would you do? Do you know what you can do to accommodate a deaf person within your business?
Did you know that 11 million people in the UK (or 1 in 5) have some form of hearing loss? It’s therefore highly likely that you’ll receive an application from someone suffering from hearing loss at some point, and even more likely that your customer base will contain people who have a form of hearing loss.
The purple pound (the spending power of disabled households) is worth £212 bn so not only is a legal requirement to ensure that you make reasonable adjustments for disabled individuals, it also makes sound commercial sense.
So, what can you do? Firstly, you don’t need to employ an interpreter full time for someone who is deaf. You can make use of technology, using instant messenger programmes such as Skype, you can book remote interpreters who will sign during meetings etc via programmes such as Skype or Facetime.
It’s important to note that you have a duty to provide ‘reasonable’ adjustments and reasonable means practical and the BDA (British Deaf Association) does not view that resorting to written formats is practical because the deaf person may not fully understand English.
The Access to Work scheme is a government scheme aimed at supporting disabled people to get into, or stay in, employment. It’s a grant scheme to support a number of interventions such as interpreters, specialist equipment etc but the amount available depends on the individual’s circumstances and is capped at £57,200 a year. However, employers may be asked to contribute a percentage of the costs.
It’s important to bear in mind that it is the individual’s obligation to apply for the grant, but you should work with the employee (or prospective employee) to ensure that their needs are assessed properly during the application process. You can find out more here.
Access to Work also supports individuals with mental health conditions which, as we’ve talked about before, are becoming much more widely recognised and common within the workplace.
So, if you have employees that have a disability and need adjustments, or have a candidate apply for a role who declares a disability you can now be more confident in how you can assist the employee and put reasonable adjustments in to place.