Opinions

Scottish Government leads the way in closing employment gap

Written by: Louise Coupland, Employability Development Officer, the ALLIANCE

Published: 05/09/2019

The Scottish Government has set out the actions it will take as an employer to support more disabled people into work.

The publication of the Scottish Government’s Recruitment and Retention Action Plan has provided further reinforcement to enabling disabled people to succeed in their employment journeys.

As well as addressing its intentions to fulfil its ambition for a workforce that is representative of the people of Scotland by 2025, the Scottish Government has also identified a further three outcomes which will internally test frameworks which can be replicated across sectors, to create supportive and accessible workplaces. The plan accentuates the commitment made by Scottish Ministers to reduce the disability employment gap by at least half by 2038.

The groundwork for this plan has been encouraging and welcomed by many ALLIANCE members and across the wider third sector. Equally there is an enthusiasm for the Scottish Government’s bold decision to take the lead. In the past many employability programmes and disabled people have expressed a difficulty in achieving successful recruitment pathways within the public sector, however this is hoped to improve with the Scottish Government striving to create an exemplar workplace culture with the view to rolling out the approach more widely.

The plan itself highlights what has been learnt from engagement work and acknowledges the challenges which must be faced- recognising changes which are needed across the organisation, not only in terms of process, but culture too. This echoes what we have heard from our members and equally what is needed across the national landscape.

From the narrative it is clear the high level of input and solution focused approaches have been adopted to shape this document; however, we must keep in mind this is solely focused on the Scottish Government. The employability gap for disabled people has been persistently apparent over decades and exists across all sectors of business, so this is just the start of a very long journey in addressing the inequalities experienced by disabled people.

It is welcoming to hear that there are plans to commission research on the collective impact of the Scottish Governments’ corporate policies and practices as too often organisations believe that because they offer flexible working arrangements such as flexi-time, compressed hours and home working that they have automatically met the needs of disabled people. Creating a culture of involving disabled people in policy development and decision making is long overdue and can only be beneficial to continual improvement. It would be great if some of that learning can be shared wider to aid workplaces in their preparation to follow suit. Equally there is a tendency of workplaces to hide behind their policies and chartered achievements as a sign of good practice rather than hearing the voices of their disabled employees.

The ALLIANCE’s ‘My Skills’ campaign provides positive examples of employer and employee experiences of living and working well with long term conditions. It advocates the importance of the line manager relationship and how working together and implementing small changes can enable everyone to get the best out of employment. The Recruitment and Retention Plan also highlighted the significance of the individual and line manager relationship stating it to be ‘central to organisational culture’.

The Scottish Government will be publishing their progress internally and externally as part of their obligations under the Public Sector Equality duty, so I look forward to seeing their progress and to monitor their success on their seven year target for external recruitment, where twenty five percent of successful candidates will be disabled people.

The plan highlights the Scottish Government’s strong commitment to overcome the current barriers faced by disabled people in achieving and sustaining employment and supports its wider work in building a more diverse and inclusive workplace for everyone. The plan is ambitious but is no less than what has been long overdue. I hope that the Scottish Government’s commitment can provide the impetus for other organisations and sectors to follow suit.

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