Chancellor’s comments linking low productivity to increased numbers of disabled people in work are unfounded, says Business Disability Forum

07 December 2017

Responding to Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s comments made to the Treasury Select Committee yesterday, linking low productivity with an increased number of disabled people in work, Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum said:

“There is no evidence to link increasing employment of disabled people to a drop in productivity. On the contrary, amongst the 300 organisations that we represent, we’ve found that positive attitudes towards employing disabled people, and accepting differences among employees, have reduced employee turnover and the lost productivity associated with it. Crucially, we’ve found that addressing the needs of disabled colleagues and introducing disability smart measures, actually reduces turnover among all employees, whether they identify as disabled or not.

“Likewise, Business Disability Forum Partner Microlink found that making workplace adjustments for employees reduced absences by 76%, generating millions of pounds in cost savings for some organisations.

“It is clear, then, that accommodating difference at work fosters a healthier and more stable workforce – and, as Acas and countless other groups have pointed out, that this focus on people leads to higher productivity.

“We have seen countless examples across our membership of disabled employees helping to transform organisational culture and attitudes to difference, with striking results. For instance a senior partner at one organisation who was spurred on by his own experiences of working with a stammer to create a large and successful network for employees with stammers, and then to spearhead a series of campaigns that encouraged all staff to be open about who they were – including about any conditions they had.  At Cisco, a senior manager used her experiences of anxiety to create a similar network for staff which grew rapidly.

“Far from hindering productivity, then, disabled people often lead change within organisations that foster healthier, more supported and more stable workforces.

“In examining the problem of low productivity, the Chancellor should use the example of being disability-smart as a way forward – improving productivity by taking care of our people.

“This kind of approach would tackle the real root cause of our low productivity: an exhausting combination of long hours and lack of adequate support that is sadly the norm for many workers in the UK – a situation not helped by the ongoing financial uncertainty facing many businesses.”