Disability-Smart Workplace Experience Award 2019 (sponsored by Microlink)

People stand and pose for an award and smile at the camera

Winners – MI5

What we were looking for

Organisations making their workplaces great places to be for all employees. Places where the needs of disabled people are built into the workplace culture and processes, and the wellbeing of all employees is a top priority.

What did they do?

MI5 has placed accessibility and inclusion at the heart of their workplace. The nature of their unique role as an employer in the security space means that they can’t afford to be inaccessible or to exclude any employee. Consequently, a series of joint efforts between their Diversity and Inclusion team and their Disability Staff Network has led to a comprehensive programme to become as welcoming as possible to disabled employees and candidates.

Firstly, they’ve redesigned their recruitment process to make sure applicants can request adjustments they need in order to compete on a level playing field. They’ve also made provisions in the recruitment process to make sure any workplace adjustments a successful candidate needs are in place on their first day.

Secondly, they’ve created a comprehensive system of in-house support to help all staff. Disabled and non-disabled staff can access mental health support, medical advice, neurological assessments and physiotherapy. They’ve also streamlined the workplace adjustments requests process through a one-stop IT Accessibility Hub, which can allow adjustments to be made within the same day.

In-house occupational health and well-being services are also well advertised throughout the organisation. Electronic forms make these services easy to request and recommendations they make can often be fulfilled the same day thanks to a range of accessibility items being kept in stock.

Thirdly, they’ve fostered a culture of inclusivity throughout the organisation. They focus on making sure all employees understand how they can be inclusive, through a range of training and deployment initiatives. Many of these are led by disabled colleagues. They’ve put in place policies and ‘disability allies’ to empower employees to challenge unacceptable language and behaviour. 

Why did they win?

MI5 has shown an unrivalled dedication to being an inclusive workplace that benefits all employees. A key achievement was placing disabled people at the core of the process, by taking their lead from groups such as the Disability Staff Network. This gave disabled employees a say in shaping their workplace to be inclusive and accessible. There are also a number of disabled representatives on their Shadow Board which is a staff led group that comments on papers going to the MI5 Executive Board.

We were especially impressed by the way they successfully created a culture of inclusion. This can be one of the most important, and one of the most difficult, things to achieve. MI5’s work in this area has shown how serious they are about being a truly inclusive and accessible workplace for all employees.


Dubai Police – for their RUWAD programme (meaning Engage, Enable and Empower) that aims to improve the lives of disabled employees and employees’ disabled children.

HS2 – for its dedication to best practice in its supply chain and inclusivity, that has seen reporting of disability rise from 6% to 16%.

West Midlands Police – for creating its People and Organisational Development Department, which has helped effect a radical culture change around disability inclusion.

Inspired to enter the 2020 Disability-Smart Awards? Contact our Events team at events@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk for more information.