Last reviewed: 5 October 2022
Employee disability networks are something you’d normally expect to see at larger organisations, however, they can also be a great way for small businesses to create spaces for employees, disabled and non-disabled, are able to discuss ways to make products and services more accessible to customers and improve their work environments.
There are three main types of employee networks
- Steering groups
These are usually led lead by the organisation, and typically have a strategic focus.
- Disabled Employee Networks
Usually led by employees, and predominantly to support one another and to be a ‘voice’ for disabled employees in the organisation.
- Consultation networks
These are used by the organisation to consult with disabled employees on changes to policies or practices to ensure that disability impact and feedback from disabled people is considered during policy formation or reviewing working practices.
What to consider when creating an employee disability network:
Who is it for?
Be clear on who the network or group is for – for example:
- Disabled employees
- Employees with health conditions
- People who become disabled
- Those who care for someone with a disability
- Those with an interest in disability
- The business
The answer should also feed back into the purpose of the group.
What does the network or group need?
- Who will sponsor the network? This will ideally be someone in the senior management team, such as the owner of the business.
- Who will lead the network, and what will their role be – i.e. what do you want them to do?
Also consider the following:
- As well as considering what the network or group needs from the organisation, consider what the organisation needs from the group.
- An effective network is one that is structured, organised, and works to assist the delivery of the organisation’s overall equality and/or disability-related objectives.
What are the objectives of the network?
Make sure the remit, and purpose of the network is defined. Sometimes businesses use networks as a source of expertise on managing disability in the workplace, and this is not always appropriate. This is why it’s important to establish exactly what the network is there to do in agreement with the business.
Other key points to consider:
- Do not assume that all people with disabilities or long-term conditions in your organisation will be active members of the network you develop.
- This means you will still need to be communicating with your whole organisation on disability-related issues, not solely relying on the group or network member-base to give you a ‘full’ picture of what it is that you want to know – from changes to policies, building alterations, to renewing supplier contracts (for example).
- Employee disability networks can be a very useful exercise to creating an inclusive culture in your organisation and to be truly effective, recommendations made by the group need to be clearly communicated to management teams and considered when shaping business decisions.
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