Thursday, 16 February 2017

Piercing the Smokescreen


The submission phase of the DWP consultation on the Work and Health Green Paper closes tomorrow, 17th February at 11:45pm (!?!). Submissions can still be made at https://consultations.dh.gov.uk/workandhealth/consult/ via an online form. That only the online form is available for submission is probably a hint as to just how attention the Green Paper shows to the actual needs of disabled people.


The Spartacus Network has just released a comprehensive (237 page) response to the Work and Health Green Paper with clinically dissects it to reveal it for what it is, a smokescreen. I’m listed as a co-author to the report, because it incorporates my ‘Ticked Off’ analysis of the critical weaknesses of the Disability Confident scheme that was originally published here on Where’s the Benefit?, but that’s a tiny fraction of the full report and the real credit goes to Caroline Richardson and Stef Benstead as the two principle authors.

The Spartacus report brands the Green Paper a smokescreen because it is supposed to address the government’s pledge to halve the Disability Employment Gap, which sees disabled employment running at nearly half the rate of non-disabled employment. As any disabled person can tell you, the gap exists because of society’s attitude towards disabled people in general, and because of blatant disability discrimination in recruitment and the workplace in particular. But this is a Tory government and god forbid an employer might ever do anything wrong. So if the problem can’t be with the employers or society, then obviously the problem must be with us. 

In order to erect that smokescreen the Green Paper spends a great deal of time implying disability isn’t actually that much of a barrier to work and proposes to step up a gear in trying to compel disabled people to find a job. Beyond the already announced 30% cut in ESA, because clearly it’ll be easier to find a job if you can’t heat your house or feed yourself, Work and Health proposes forcing people in the ESA Support Group, even those who are terminally ill, to undertake at least some work-related activity. Bizarrely it aims to reduce the funding available to the Work Programme subcontractors on a per person basis, while proposing that unqualified ‘work coaches’ be able to overrule GPs on patient’s health and treatment, and insisting that GPs should recognise that good health can only be achieved through work. One wonders how they explain the country’s 16 million pensioners?

When it comes to addressing the reality that the problem lies with employers, and society, the green paper mentions the word discrimination precisely twice, and one of those references is in relation to a non-governmental scheme. How can you seriously discuss halving the Disability Employment Gap and not address the universally recognised problem of widespread discrimination?

To quote a senior recruitment industry professional of many years’ experience on my career prospects as a highly skilled engineer: “You need to understand that with your disability no private sector company will consider employing you, and precious few public sector employers either”. If even the recruitment industry admits they have a problem with disability discrimination, why won’t ministers?

The consultation might equally be branded a smokescreen, as even before the submission phase has closed DWP have announced that London and Manchester will be acting as DWP’s proxies to implement the Green Paper’s plans, which shows a real readiness to listen when disabled people tell them why those plans won’t work. The Mayor of London has welcomed the opportunity to get involved, but he probably hasn’t realised that DWP are likely hoping to spread the blame when Work and Health crashes and burns. And, of course, that 30% cut to ESA is bearing down on us like a ton of uncaring Tory bricks.

The floggings will continue until disability employment improves.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Consultation on the Green Paper on Work and Health

The Green Paper on Work and Health will form the core of future government policy towards disabled people and those in ill-health, especially those of us unable to work. As you might imagine from a Green Paper that brings together Jeremy 'Privatise the NHS' Hunt and Damien 'IDS Mk II' Green, it's more than a little problematical, starting from the whole idea that to be healthy you need to be in work. Other highlights including forcing those in the ESA Support Group, those furthest from the labour market, including people with terminal illnesses, to engage in 'work related activity' or potentially face sanctions.

There is a government consultation on the Green Paper, with responses required by 11:45pm (!?!) on 17th February 2017.

Details of the Green Paper, in multiple formats, including signed, spoken word and Easy Read, with Braille available on request, can be found here, with details on the consultation available here.  However, it appears it is only possible to respond to the consultation online and the only available format it is presented in is written English/HTML, which really is a particularly poor example to set.

(If you intend responding I would suggest copying the questions into a Word, or similar, document and preparing your answers offline).

Catherine Hale has some good thoughts on the implications of the Green Paper when viewed from the perspective of our human rights as disabled people: A Rights Based Response.

CPS Consultation on Disability Hate Crime Policy

The Crown Prosecution Service are holding a consultation on their Disability Hate Crime Policy. Responses are due by midnight on 9th January 2017.

You can find the policy, in multiple formats, including signed, Easy Read and spoken work, and how to respond, on their website at this link.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Ticked Off – Going through the Motions of Replacing Two Ticks



The Disability Employment Gap

The UK workforce features a prominent Disability Employment Gap. At the end of 2015 80% of non-disabled people of working age were employed, for disabled people of working age that figure was only 47%. Disabled people want to work, the problem arises in the recruitment and retention of disabled people by employers and recruiters. Disabled people face a systematic disadvantage in recruitment that has remained constant across decades (attempts to fix this started in the 1940s).  To use a starker phrasing, disabled people face institutional disablism in recruitment and in the workplace.

In the 2015 General Election the Conservative Party made a manifesto pledge to halve the disability employment gap by 2020. Halving the gap seems to have been initially proposed by Scope in 2014.

Two Ticks to Failure

Positive About Disability
, better known as Two Ticks from its logo, was the UK government’s scheme intended to encourage the recruitment and retention of disabled people within the workforce. Introduced in 1990, and administered through DWP’s Jobcentre Plus offices, Two Ticks required employers to commit to five simple measures:
  • to interview all disabled applicants who met the minimum criteria for a vacancy
  • to meet with disabled employees, at least once a year, to ensure all their needs were being met
  • to make every effort to ensure employees who become disabled could stay in their jobs
  • to ensure the disability awareness of all employees necessary to these commitments
  • to review the five commitments annually, plan how to do better and report back to both employees and Jobcentre Plus
It rapidly became clear to disabled people that Two Ticks was a sham. The scheme was supposed to be administered by Disability Employment Advisers at local Jobcentre Plus offices, however DEAs were overloaded with a far higher client/adviser ratio than other Jobcentre Staff and the scheme was rarely policed. The reality for disabled people was that employers would sign up to Two Ticks, add the logo to their headed paper in order to impress their customers and the great and the good, and then carry on not employing disabled people in just the same way they always had.

A Freedom of Information request to DWP in 2013 produced a list of slightly under 4,400 organisations then registered with Jobcentre Plus as Two Ticks employers. However, this list appears to contain many duplicate entries. Figures quoted in an article in Recruiter in June 2014 suggested around 8,400 organisations had been awarded the Two Ticks logo over the lifetime of the scheme. Government figures state there were 4.9 million private sector employers in the UK in 2013, 99.9% of these are Small or Medium Sized Employers (SMEs), giving Two Ticks a sign-up percentage of around 0.0017%, after a quarter of a century of existence, and without counting Public Sector employers. The Recruiter article additionally noted that less than half of FTSE 200 firms, theoretically the leading employers in the UK, were Two Ticks employers.

By the early 2010s Two Ticks was in thorough disrepute. In January 2013, the then Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey, announced an inquiry into whether Two Ticks was fit for purpose. In 2014 research by Professor Kim Hoque, of Warwick Business School, and Nick Bacon, of London’s Cass Business School, published as Employer Disability Practice in Britain: Assessing the Impact of the Positive about Disabled People ‘Two Ticks’ Symbol in Work, Employment and Society showed that, of companies displaying the Two Ticks symbol, only 15%, less than one in six, carried out all five commitments. 38% carried out only one of the commitments, and 18%, almost one in five, carried out none of the commitments whatsoever, yet continued to display the logo. Results were consistent across both Public and Private Sectors. 

Taken together, over half of companies displaying the Two Ticks logo carried out either only one, or none, of the five commitments. The Business Disability Forum criticised the research for using Trade Unions to report back on the reality of Two Ticks, claiming only 15% of private sector employers with more than 10 employees are unionised. However, the research itself noted that percentages were consistent across both Public and Private Sectors and even a cursory glimpse at the list of employers resulting from the Freedom of Information request referred to above shows that the majority of Two Ticks employers are Public Sector organisations or otherwise likely to be unionised. Professor Hoque identified the failure to police the scheme as a fundamental reason for its failure.

In response to the research, even the DWP admitted Two Ticks had become ‘outdated’. However, they tried to suggest that the issue was insufficient support for employers, rather than employers wanting the kudos of the logo without being forced into any actual change in their employment practices. The intent of the scheme, to support disabled employees and applicants, was not addressed.

The Two Ticks requirements were hardly major commitments, most could be incorporated into existing procedures for recruitment or annual appraisals, yet the research showed that disabled people approaching a company displaying the Two Ticks logo, or employees who became disabled while working for a Two Ticks company, were more likely to find the logo was a façade behind which nothing had changed, than to actually find the support the employer had publicly committed themselves to. The research concluded that employers were using Two Ticks for impression management purposes’ rather than to improve the employment, and employment conditions, of disabled people.

Disability Confident, Or Not

In July 2013 the government launched Disability Confident as the latest in a line of DWP schemes intended to encourage employers to take on more disabled employees. The focus of these DWP schemes has long been the subject of criticism from disabled people. They typically feature supposed role-models in a manner that almost inevitably strays into outright inspiration-porn and a refusal to address the real-life experience of workplace disability discrimination. Unlike previous schemes Disability Confident was much higher profile, and much more blatant in its inspiration-porn, using Paralympians, and prominent disabled ex-servicemen to draw business people into its events. That this thoroughly denormalizes disabled workers, and focusses attendees on how ‘inspiring’ we are is something Disability Confident and its advocates have consistently refused to address. Arguably worse was its oft-stated position that the reason for the Disability Employment Gap was that employers are ‘embarrassed’ about disability. Any mention of workplace disability discrimination has been notably absent from Disability Confident material.

The Disability Confident scheme has been heavily criticised by disabled people from its launch onwards.
At one point a Disability Confident event was invaded by Disabled People Against the Cuts, and its 2015 declaration of Swansea as the first (and so far only) Disability Confident City came in for widespread derision, with DWP unable to explain what a Disability Confident City was, nor why Swansea qualified. 

Disability Confident has also faced consistent criticism for its low level of sign-up, with the overwhelming majority of organizations signed-up to it being either charities or organizations with a business interest in the employment of disabled people. Despite Ian Duncan Smith declaring in a speech at the 2014 Conservative Party Conference that over 1000 organisations had signed up to Disability Confident, Disability News Service showed  that the number signed by June 2016 was only 126, with perhaps as few as 40 of those mainstream employers. Sign-up of small and medium-sized employers was almost non-existent.

Originally due to run for only two years, Disability Confident was extended in 2015 and in 2016 there were rumours that it was due to be relaunched.

Ticked Off 

After Two Ticks came under increasing criticism in 2013/14, DWP announced that it would be replaced. Following publication of the Hoque/Bacon research, a DWP spokesman was quoted by Disability News Service as saying: “We are seeking to reform the accreditation to make it a more dynamic and effective system.” It was also reported the revised scheme would see wider publicity, different levels of accreditation, a more rigorous assessment process, and improved information and guidance. It was also speculated there would be provision for disabled employees to provide feedback on actual performance of registered employers.

In July 2016 Disability News Service reported that there had been an unannounced replacement of Two Ticks by a refocussed Disability Confident. By August 2016 DWP webpages were referring to Disability Confident rather than Two Ticks, but there had been no formal launch or publicity. A formal launch finally occurred on 2nd November 2016.

Disability Confident V2.0, Ticking all the Wrong Boxes

When Disability News Service pointed me at the relaunched Disability Confident in July 2015 and asked for my opinion, my expectations were low, the scheme has consistently failed to address the core issue of the Disability Employment Gap, recruiter and workplace disablism. I was still unprepared for what I found.

Two Ticks had fallen into disrepute because only one in five of the employers displaying the logo actually lived up to their commitments, a failure that had been attributed to the lack of active policing. DWP’s solution to this is to slash the commitments needed in order to display the new logo, and to remove any pretence of monitoring.

Under the new Disability Confident Level 1, ‘Disability Confident Committed’, employers can now display the new Disability Confident Employer logo by making only a single commitment not already required by law, to interview qualified disabled applicants, and no one will check them on it.

Under the new Disability Confident Level 2, ‘Disability Confident Employer’, employers make several more commitments, and again no one will check them on it. However, the majority of these commitments would be considered ‘reasonable adjustments’ under the Equality Act 2010, and employers are required by EA2010 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees or potential employees, unless they can show that these are not reasonable. Disability Confident is allowing employers to declare themselves Disability Confident Level 2 employers by committing to do no more than they are already legally required to do. And having seen what is considered a Level 2 commitment, it follows that Disability Confident Level 1 is effectively being granted for committing to do less than is required by law. 

Disability Confident Levels 1 and 2 combined appeared roughly equivalent to the original five Two Ticks commitments, so I initially hoped that Level 3, ‘Disability Confident Leader’, would represent a step forward over Two Ticks. I was wrong. Level 3 is available simply by getting an external organisation to check your implementation of Level 2. While this could be a valid audit carried out by a specialist disability access advisor, that isn’t actually required. Level 3 accreditation can also be granted by any disabled people’s user led organisation (a DPULO), or by any other Level 3 organisation. 

To reduce it to its most absurd possibilities, one organisation could be audited at Level 3 by a DPULO that knows nothing about disability employment issues, say one focussed on disability sport, and that organisation could then go on to audit every other Level 2 company in the country and accredit them at Level 3, without any of them ever coming into contact with anyone who understands the issues faced by disabled people in the workplace. There is an additional requirement to display ‘leadership’, but this can be satisfied by ‘networking’, which is a necessary element of several Level 1 or 2 requirements.

Overall, it is as though someone looked at Two Ticks and said ‘this is how it’s being abused, how do we legitimise that behaviour?’

And of those 2014 predictions for what the revised scheme would feature:
·         Wider publicity: So little publicity people thought the relaunch had been cancelled
·         Different levels of accreditation: Provided, but by splitting up the existing commitments rather than extending them
·         More rigorous assessment: Replaced by self-assessment
·         Improved information and guidance: Discussed below
·         Feedback from disabled employees: Completely absent

The Disability Confident Commitments

A side by side presentation of Two Ticks, the two new levels of Disability Confident and legal (Equality Act 2010, EA2010) requirements is revealing. The original text has been paraphrased to cut multiple pages down to a manageable format.

Two Ticks

To establish a baseline, Two Ticks is first considered separately from Disability Confident.
Two Ticks
EA2010
Commentary
Interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria
Applicants cannot be excluded on the basis of disability alone
This was notoriously unpoliceable, companies simply claimed disabled applicants did not reach the minimum criteria.
Meet with disabled employees to ensure needs are met, at least once a year
Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable adjustments as and when needed
A standard annual performance review could be claimed to meet this
Retention of employees who become disabled
Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable adjustments as and when needed
In many cases exactly the opposite happened, disabled employees were forced out even in companies displaying Two Ticks
Ensure employee disability awareness
Employers are liable for the actions of their employees if these result in disability discrimination (either direct or indirect) and they fail to address it
Easily addressable during induction, but rarely done.
Review the five commitments annually
Not required by law, however not monitoring performance relevant to employment law is a business risk
The disrepute of Two Ticks shows the danger of a slow decay away from unreviewed commitments

Disability Confident Committed (Level 1)

Based on observed behaviour in relation to Two Ticks, in particular the tendency to do the minimum possible, Level 1 of Disability Confident is likely to be the level pursued by the overwhelming majority of applicants. The first table therefore compares the mandatory L1 commitments with the five Two Ticks commitment.

Disability Confident L1, Mandatory
Two Ticks
EA2010
Commentary
Ensure the  recruitment process is inclusive and accessible.
Interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria
Discrimination is unlawful. Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable adjustments as and when needed
This amounts to ‘obey the law’. See Comment 1.
Communicate and promote vacancies
Ditto
Disabled people are entitled to reasonable adjustments as and when needed
Incredibly vague. See Comment 1.
Offer an interview to disabled people
Ditto
Applicants cannot be excluded on the basis of disability alone
This is notoriously unpoliceable. See Comment 1.
Anticipate and provide reasonable adjustments as required
Meet with disabled employees to ensure needs are met, at least once a year
Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable adjustments as and when needed
‘Anticipate’ is very good. But again this is ‘obey the law’
Support existing employees who acquire a disability, enabling them to stay in work
Retention of employees who become disabled
Ditto
Good. But again this is ‘obey the law’

Not required
Ensure employee disability awareness
Employers are liable for the actions of their employees if these result in discrimination
You can claim Disability Confident L1, yet have staff with no disability awareness training
Not required
Review the five commitments annually
Not required by law, however not monitoring performance relevant to employment law is a business risk
The disrepute of Two Ticks shows the danger of a slow decay away from unreviewed commitments

Comment 1: The initial three requirements largely merge into one overall process of recruitment: Advertise the job, make the process accessible, interview disabled applicants. Arguably this is no more than Two Ticks required, if a little clearer on what the process involves. However, during the Two Ticks era “Your CV didn’t meet our internal requirements” was a notorious excuse for companies who didn’t want to follow through on their commitments and interview disabled applicants and was almost impossible to challenge. There is nothing here that would prevent that being true of Disability Confident.


Disability Confident L1, Optional
Two Ticks
EA2010
Commentary
Offer Disabled People at least one of the activities below:
Most implied by: Interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria
Applicants cannot be excluded on the basis of disability alone
It would be illegal to exclude disabled people from any of these.
See Comment 2
Work experience
Ditto
Ditto
See Comment 2
Work trials “this is a way of trying out a potential employee”
Ditto
Ditto
See Comment 3
Paid employment (permanent or fixed term)
Ditto
Ditto
See Comment 2
Apprenticeships
Ditto
Ditto
Ditto
Job Shadowing  “lasts between half a day and 2 days”
Ditto
Ditto
Ditto
Traineeships (i.e. sub- apprentice level)

Ditto
Ditto
Paid or supported internships
Ditto
Ditto
Ditto
Student Placements


Ditto
Sector-based work academy placements
Ditto
Ditto
Ditto

Comment 2:  These options collapse to a general ‘be willing to employ a disabled person’, but don’t require that to be carried through. The requirement to do this is already imposed by the Equality Act 2010. The requirements as written could be satisfied by a 15yo doing work experience, a ½ day job shadow, or employing a disabled contractor for any length of time, even an hour. Most relate to entry level positions, there is little or no focus on employing disabled people in experienced/professional/managerial positions.

Comment 3: “this is a way of trying out a potential employee” is a disturbing re-interpretation of the intent of a work trial, which is normally understood as an opportunity for a disabled candidate to confirm to themselves that they can manage the job without health consequences. This can be read as a disabled recruit facing an additional pass/fail test compared to a non-disabled recruit, which would be direct disability discrimination counter to EA2010.

Conclusion: Disability Confident Committed (Level 1) mandates that companies should offer to interview disabled people, and in addition that they should provide reasonable adjustments and not dismiss staff who become disabled (both already required by law). But the requirement to actually employ disabled people is optional, and can be passed by saying you would do so. Even if the requirement were made mandatory rather than theoretical, it could be trivially passed without permanently employing any disabled person.

In comparison to Two Ticks, the need for training staff in disability awareness and the requirement for an annual review of processes have been dropped.

Almost every commitment under Disability Confident Committed is already legally required by the Equality Act 2010. Employers are therefore being offered a government sponsored logo attesting what good disability employers they are for simply for offering to interview disabled people.

Disability Confident Employer (Level 2)

Level 2 is divided into two themes, Recruitment and Retention/Development. The themes, and their mandatory and optional requirements are analysed in separate tables. The requirements here are condensed down from some 20 pages of bulleted text, similar in appearance to Powerpoint slides.

Theme 1: Recruitment

Recruitment, Mandatory
Two Ticks
EA2010
Commentary
Actively look to attract and recruit disabled people
Interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria
Applicants cannot be excluded on the basis of disability alone
As L1
Provide an inclusive and accessible recruitment process
Ditto
Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable adjustments as and when needed
As L1. Still legally required.
Interview all disabled people who meet the minimum criteria
Ditto
Applicants cannot be excluded on the basis of disability alone
As L1
Flexible assessments so disabled applicants can demonstrate they can do the job
Ditto
Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable adjustments as and when needed
Reasonable adjustments, it’s the law!
Make reasonable adjustments as required
Ditto
Ditto
As L1. Still legally required.
Encourage suppliers and partner firms to be Disability Confident
New

This is new and actually quite good.
Ensure employees have disability equality awareness
Ensure employee disability awareness
Employers are liable for the actions of their employees if these result in discrimination and they fail to address it
Teach equality, or face the consequences.

The mandatory elements of the Level 2 Recruitment theme are essentially a repeat of Level 1 in slightly greater detail.

Recruitment, Optional
Two Ticks
EA2010
Commentary
Provide at least one of the activities below:
Most implied by: Interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria
Applicants cannot be excluded on the basis of disability alone
See Comment 4. Still legally required to be open to disabled people.
Work experience
Ditto
Ditto

Work trials
Ditto
Ditto
Wording remains problematical.
Paid employment (permanent or fixed term)
Ditto
Ditto

Apprenticeships
Ditto
Ditto

Traineeships
Ditto
Ditto

Paid or supported internships
Ditto
Ditto
See Comment 5
Advertise vacancies in disability media

New

Assumes disabled people read ‘disability media’. Most won’t. I have never heard of several of the proposed venues.
Engage with JCP, Work Choice providers or DPULOs for support
New

Just contacting your local JCP appears to be a pass.
An accessible environment for staff and customers

Meet with disabled employees to ensure needs are met, at least once a year
There is a presumptive duty on all organisations to provide accessible services. Disabled staff and customers remain entitled to reasonable adjustments as and when needed.
See Comment 6
Otherwise encourage disabled people to apply

New, but so, so woolly.

 “We put a job ad for disabled people in a locked filing cabinet in the cellar behind a door saying ‘beware of the panther”

Comment 4:  The intention is obviously that this should be applied in relation to disabled recruits, as at Level 1, but the wording in Level 2 doesn’t actually say that. Given the known history of abuse of the Two Ticks criteria and the switch to self-assessment, this is incredibly naïve. The concerns noted at Level 1 remain. In addition, the “one or more of” structure creates an either/or potential between being willing to employ disabled people, and having an accessible workplace. Disabled people, of course, require both. 

Comment 5: Level 1 describes a ‘supported internship’ as for a disabled person still in education, Level 2 describes it similarly, but adds “whose disability is such that they need special support, often including a support worker or work coach to help them in the workplace”, which would surely be just as relevant at Level 1. Level 2 goes on to say: “Supported internships do require time and commitment to set up, so might be most appropriate for a larger employer” Is this trying to talk people into providing them, or out of providing them? Additionally, it creates a presumption that disabled people who require support workers are not employable by small or medium sized enterprises (SMEs). It also seems unaware that support worker costs are potentially covered by Access to Work. (Or is deliberately not raising it).

Comment 6: Putting accessibility in the options mean it is possible to be awarded Disability Confident Levels 2 and 3 with an inaccessible workplace. This is also internally contradictory with Level 1, where provision of reasonable adjustments is a mandatory requirement. An accessible workplace is perhaps the most common of all reasonable adjustments.

Conclusion: An accessible workplace is not explicitly required at Level 1, and optional at Level 2. DWP are clearly working on a very different definition of Disability Confident than any the disabled community would adopt. Where requirements overlap from Level 1, the same concerns raised there apply, but the wording of Level 2 is oddly different in places, with the employment provisions not actually specifying a disabled person in most places, which technically means an auditor could not demand that be met.

Disability Confident also appears to be functioning on a perception that disabled people and the workforce are separate entities, with the suggestion that jobs must be advertised in disability specific media to reach disabled people.

Theme 2: Retention and Development

Retention, Mandatory
Two Ticks
EA2010
Commentary
Promote a culture of being Disability Confident

Ensure employee disability awareness

Disability Confident’s culture of inspiration-porn is not going to help.
Support employees to manage their disabilities or health conditions

Meet with disabled employees to ensure needs are met, at least once a year
Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable adjustments as and when needed
See Comment 7.
Ensure there are no barriers to the development and progression of disabled staff 
Ditto
Allowing such a barrier to exist would be disability discrimination.
Credit given for not breaking the law. See Comments 8 and 9
Ensure managers are aware of how they can support staff who are sick or absent from work
Ditto
Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable adjustments as and when needed
Not actually disability specific. Very easy for this to slip into harassment.
Listen to feedback from disabled staff
Ditto
Staff raising disability related issues are specifically protected from retaliation.
See Comment 7
Continual self-assessment.
Review the five commitments annually

Established as good practise in all business areas.

Comment 7: There is a long history of disabled people being penalised for admitting disability, up to and including summary dismissal. Similar persecution has also followed calls for disability related improvements, requests for reasonable adjustments, or just adherence to equality law. Disabled people are well aware of this and there is a considerable body of advice urging disabled workers not to acknowledge disability unless absolutely necessary. These are points where Disability Confident is absolutely required to address the history of workplace disability discrimination in order to allow the employer to understand the reluctance to engage they are likely to encounter. It does not, for what can only be presumed to be its ongoing politically-motivated insistence that workplace disability discrimination does not exist.

Comment 8: “This could include: encouraging disabled staff to be ambitious and seek progression in the workplace, including increasing hours”. This is further evidence of a profound disconnect in Disability Confident’s understanding of disability. Many disabled people have limited energy and may struggle to complete even part-time hours. Linking advancement to increased hours creates a presumption that actively links ability and promotion to endurance/energy, even though this would be constitute discrimination under EA2010 if not actively required by the position.

“including increasing hours” therefore makes no sense from a disability perspective. However, it makes complete sense as an ideologically driven inclusion related to DWP’s initiative to force people in receipt of Universal Credit to increase their hours if not in full time working. So far as Disability Confident is concerned, it appears ideology trumps legality.

Comment 9: “monitoring, whether formally or informally, progression rates for disabled staff and ensuring they are in line with general progression rates” This is actually a very good suggestion, though of course it should be done for every minority group. For this purpose ‘progression’ would necessarily include progression of salary.


Retention and Development, Optional
Two Ticks
EA2010
Commentary
Provide at least one of the activities below:



Mentoring and support networks
Meet with disabled employees to ensure needs are met, at least once a year

Presumes a large enough firm to facilitate this. Does not discuss need for mentors to be disability aware.
Disability awareness training as part of induction
Ensure employee disability awareness
Employers are liable for the actions of their employees if these result in discrimination
See Comment 10
Keep staff informed on mental health issues
Ensure employee disability awareness
Ditto
See Comment 11
Occupational health services
Meet with disabled employees to ensure needs are met, at least once a year
Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable adjustments as and when needed
See Comment 12
Identify and share good practice with business partners
New

New and good, but not an excuse to not provide the other options.
Provide HR staff and recruiters with Disability Confident training.
Ensure employee disability awareness
Employers are liable for the actions of their employees if these result in discrimination
See Comment 10


Comment 10: Confusingly, Disability Awareness training of all staff is mandatory under the Recruitment theme, but training of new staff during induction and ongoing disability training for HR staff are both optional under the Retention and Development theme. You cannot train all staff unlesss you also train new staff, while HR staff have an absolute professional need to understand the current law around disability and employment. How can a company be Disability Confident if its HR staff do not know the law?

Comment 11: “guiding staff to information on mental health and well-being in the work place can help them identify the symptoms and know how to support their team members and colleagues.” This is frankly disturbing in its call for staff, and particularly supervisors, to engage in amateur psychological diagnosis and/or treatment. 


Comment 12: Employees and managers require OH advice to provide appropriate guidance on how disabled staff might be supported. It is impossible to be Disability Confident without that professional support.

Conclusion:  Over and beyond my normal criticism of Disability Confident; writing process documents, and conducting audits based on them, is somewhere I have extensive professional experience. The Disability Confident requirements defining how to reach each of Levels 1, 2 and 3 are dreadful. They are unclear, inconsistent, and utterly riddled with loopholes and contradictions. They make Two Ticks look like a model of good practise.

To illustrate just how badly the Disability Confident criteria are written, you can be awarded Disability Confident Leader (Level 3) with no disabled employees and an inaccessible workplace after being assessed by a DPULO with no experience in employment issues.

So What is Actually New in Disability Confident?

There are elements of Disability Confident that are new in comparison to Two Ticks, however they are largely peripheral. The principal change is one of focus, from simply prescriptive to an attempt to educate, unfortunately this isn’t actually particularly good, or founded on any deep understanding of the issues disabled people will encounter in the workplace. Worse, it attempts to both prescribe and educate in the same sentence, with the result that the requirements are obfuscated, or defined so loosely as to be useless. The three level documents should have been divided into separate “You must provide” and “This is how” sections.

Beyond that, the new elements consist primarily of trying to tie the Two Ticks element of Disability Confident into the wider Disability Confident programme. Being a model of good practise is valuable, but should not have the potential to free an employer from, for instance, providing an accessible workplace, which the current requirements allow.

Tallying Disability Confident against Two Ticks, we see that even at Levels 2 and 3 (the only difference is external assessment), requirements have been loosened, rather than the promised tightening. Many elements that were required under Two Ticks, for instance accessible workplaces, are now optional under Disability Confident, or only required at Level 2/3, but the poor layout makes this almost impossible to realise with anything less than a systematic point by point comparison.

How Do We Fix This?

It would be simple to rework Disability Confident into a workable Two Ticks replacement. One that addresses the weaknesses Two Ticks revealed rather than shying away from them. Most of the requirements make some sort of sense, but the structure they are assembled into allows employers to exploit the label with no intention of changing. This is not simply a theoretical concern, many of us have worked through active discrimination at companies with Two Ticks accreditation and I was recently shown an employer email saying (paraphrased) “We said we’re committed to interviewing disabled people, we’ve actually got one, how do we get out of it?”

As a general principal, we need commitments that actually mean something. No logos without actual disabled employees, no logos for doing what is already required by law, no logos for untrained staff and inaccessible premises. We also need three specific changes:

·         Meaningful Requirements: Ones that do not allow routes through them that leave the workplace or its management and recruitment processes inaccessible. The optional elements need to be urgently revised so that only features that not all firms will offer remain optional.
 
·         Auditable Requirements: The wording of the Disability Confident requirements is unclear, mixing advice with requirements in the same sentence. This makes it more difficult to judge what the requirement actually is. This affects both the employer trying to make the change and the auditor trying to confirm that they have actually done so. This can be accomplished be rewriting the documents to split advice and requirements into separate sections.

·         Audited Awards: Two Ticks fell into disrepute because it was not audited. That lesson is clear. A replacement that dumps the audit requirement is not fit for purpose. Disability Confident is only audited at Disability Confident Leader (Level 3), and even that does not require appropriately trained auditors. Disability Confident Committed and Disability Confident Employer are not audited at all, prior experience says without this the scheme will again fall into disrepute. So we need auditors. Auditors need independence, training, and a clear set of requirements against which to conduct the audit.

DWP is the driving force behind Disability Confident, it was the failure of DWP DEAs to conduct audits that led to Two Ticks falling into disrepute. DEAs are no longer an appropriate solution for auditing Disability Confident, DWP has slashed their numbers and even a recently announced increase will not restore numbers to the previous total, which was already inadequate. If DWP wants to increase the employment of disabled people, but does not have the staff to audit its own scheme, then perhaps the solution is obvious – train disabled people as auditors.  

Not So Disability Confident Conclusions

We were promised a stronger scheme with increased external supervision, we have been delivered a weaker scheme with (almost) no external supervision.

The replacement for Two Ticks turns out to be worse in almost every respect. It is trivially easy to look at the way that Two Ticks was abused and see that Disability Confident further enables that abuse rather than preventing it. If Disability Confident is trivially easy to abuse, then perhaps that was in fact its primary design constraint. There was a telling comment from one of the architects of the scheme in the DNS article on the launch ‘if we had asked them to do anything more they wouldn’t have signed up’.

If we don’t demand meaningful change, then Disability Confident cannot bring down the Disability Employment Gap, in which case what is the point in implementing it? The question then becomes whether Disability Confident is meant to address the employment of Disabled People, or the public and peer perception of employers?