RIDI Awards 2019: standout good practice in disability inclusion.

Kate Headley, chair of judging panel, The Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI).

Disabled people remain significantly underrepresented in the workplace: the latest official figures show that there are currently around 3.9 million people of working age with disabilities with jobs, representing an employment rate of 51.3 per cent. For people without disabilities, however, this number sits at 81.4 per cent. 

The Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative was launched in 2011 with one clear purpose – to remove the barriers that disabled people face in finding work. Celebrating this year’s RIDI Awards it was clear that that we are succeeding in our mission – but that we still have further to go. 

From the earliest days of RIDI, there was a belief that the recruitment industry – a sector that is currently worth £34 billion in the UK alone – probably could do something quite significant around boosting the number of disability confident employers and improving the experiences of disabled people. As the results of this year’s RIDI Awards demonstrate, the staffing sector is making significant progress in boosting levels of disability inclusion to the benefit of both jobseekers themselves, and the organisations that employ them. 

As RIDI Award host, former Paralympian and founder of The Ability People, Liz Johnson, said on the night, “People with disability, they’re some of the most resourceful, resilient, dedicated and motivated people on the planet.” 

Just a few short years ago the Adjustments in Recruitment Awards category, which celebrates organisations which have supported disabled jobseekers in performing to their full potential, had very few entries – and none whatsoever from the recruitment industry itself. We had a lot of inquiries about what that actually meant, and some interest in learning more about what that could achieve and what it was all about, but a shortfall in actual submissions. However, this year, we had the highest number of entries in that particular category, many from within the UK staffing sector – proof that the dial is moving. 

Elsewhere, there were other standout examples of recruitment agencies leading the way in disability inclusion. For example, 24-7 Recruitment picked up this year’s Getting Started award for being an exceptional example of a Disability Confident committed employer, developing great relationships to increase the provision of meaningful employment opportunities for disabled people. The same organisation also picked up the Individual Choice award for demonstrating that, with the right support in place, individuals can be empowered to be able to deliver unique and valuable contributions within a number of different workplace settings.  

On the evening, Anna Tuczynska, the brand’s inclusive workplace programme manager, outlined how the business is working to become more inclusive: “We realised that really, there are people out there who would make fantastic employees but they are under-represented and not supported,” she explained. “So, we launched an initiative called Inclusive Workplace in the supply chain, working with different organisations around the country and convincing our clients – major logistics and distribution providers – to work with us and create work opportunities for disabled people.” After running trials on three distribution sites, the project expanded to 13 sites within the year – and is still expanding. To date, 60 people have been offered work through the scheme. She admitted that: “Whilst, at the beginning, we had to convince clients, now they come to us and ask what to do to attract disabled candidates.” It is clear, then, that innovation within recruitment agencies can have a measurable and significant impact on perceptions throughout the wider supply chain. 

Other talent acquisition specialists which were recognised on the evening included Sopra Steria Recruitment, which was shortlisted for the 2019 Disability Confident Award, thanks to its barrier-free process for disability and being a catalyst for change within the industry. Trading and development finalist, Carmichael UK, was also recognised for the level of training invested in the team that supported and enabled individuals to secure sustainable employment pathways in the context of a uniquely challenging industry setting.  

As Ty Jones, director of CSR and engagement at DWF and RIDI executive board member, summarised at the event, “Being responsive is what counts, by identifying and removing any barriers that prevent capable, talented people from achieving their potential. No business should manage diversity as a compliance requirement, and noise around the value of diversity is not something that will go away if we choose to ignore it for long enough.  By doing things differently we can transform the lives of people through meaningful employment”. Thankfully, this is a message that the recruitment industry seems to be hearing loud and clear.   

This year we launched the RIDI 100: an exclusive directory of recruitment service providers which are committed to the inclusion of disabled jobseekers. Limited to 100 members, The initiative enables inclusive recruiters to have year-round association with RIDI at an entry level cost. Benefits include: being able to use the RIDI 100 partner logo in brand collateral, being searchable on the RIDI website, invitations to select events throughout the year and preferential rates with RIDI partner organisations. 

On the evening of the awards, the founding members – which have all made a commitment that they will achieve Disability Confident Level 1 within 12 months of signing up as a partner – were recognised and celebrated. Those pioneering companies are: AmberJack, Lorien, PageGroup, Rullion, Hoggett Bowers, Resource Solutions, Sopra Steria Recruitment and WilsonHCG – and there is space for others to join them.   

As Guidant Global CEO and RIDI executive board member, Simon Blockley, highlighted on the night, “There are 80,000 recruitment agencies, and what we want is the top 100 that are committed, that are prepared, that want to stand next to RIDI and all of the brilliant partners and sponsors and end users within RIDI at each and every one of our events, all year round.”  

While there’s still a long way to go, judging by the progress made this year, we are getting much closer to real change. I firmly believe that we are on the path to creating a Disability Confident landscape for all disabled job seekers – and the recruitment profession is, and will continue to be, instrumental in driving this progress.  

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