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Want to stay on the right side of the law? We support businesses and public authorities and help them to promote good practice.
 
 

Positive action

Recruiting people with disabilities

What you need to know

 

Positive Action - Recruiting people with disabilities


The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 allows employers to treat people with disabilities more favourably than people without. This creates opportunities for employers to take positive action of a kind that would not be permitted under the other anti-discrimination laws.

The positive actions listed below are lawful provided they are offered to people with disabilities generally, rather than only to people with specific impairments (e.g. learning disabilities, sensory disabilities or other). As an employer, you do not need to obtain permission from the Equality Commission before taking any of these positive actions, although we will readily provide advice should you request it.

Employers who are charitable organisations, or who provide the Workable NI supported employment programme (the latter tend to be charities too), may depart from that rule in certain exceptional circumstances. For example, a charity whose charitable purpose is to employ deaf people may ring-fence jobs in its organisation specifically for deaf people. Employers who are not charitable organisations will not be able to rely on these exceptions when recruiting new employees and they should follow the advice given in the preceding paragraph.


Targeting the opportunities

Employers may lawfully target their positive action job and training opportunities to those disabled people who are likely to be the most disadvantaged in the labour market.

For example, you could consider opening the opportunities only to those persons who are disabled and:

 
  • who have never been in paid employment, or 
  • who have been in long-term unemployment, or 
  • who have not been educated beyond secondary level, or
  • who have no formal academic or vocational qualifications

 

When taking any of these suggested positive actions, always be aware that you may also be obliged to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.

Positive action 1 – Provide vocational training opportunities

As an employer, you could offer vocational training opportunities solely to people who have disabilities.

This can better equip people who have disabilities to work in your organisation and will assist them to meet the selection criteria that you set to fill vacant posts.

Before taking this action, you should:

 
1. Consider what jobs the training will relate to e.g. clerical, cleaning, portering, catering, construction, ICT, managerial?

2. Consider who will design and deliver the training? Will this be done in-house or by an external provider, such as a disability organisation, a college of further and higher education or a vocational training provider?

3. Consider the additional support needs that a disabled person may have and how these will be met?

4. Consider how and where the training will be delivered? Will the training be wholly “on-the-job” training or will there be some classroom elements?

5. Consider how many training opportunities you will offer in a given period?

6. Consider how you will select the individuals for the training? When opening up the opportunities to public competition, what selection criteria will you use if you receive more applications than there are available training places? 

7. Ensure that any selection processes are not discriminatory on any other of the equality grounds, such as sex, religious belief, race, age or sexual orientation.

8. Advise applicants at the start of the process of what their successful completion of the programme will lead to. Will you?

 
  • guarantee them a job, or
  • require them to apply, with all other potential (disabled and non-disabled) candidates, for any job vacancies that may arise, but treat their completion of the training programme as being:

- equivalent to the shortlisting criteria that you normally set when deciding who to invite to interview, or other test, and then invite them to that stage to compete against the other candidates, or

- equivalent to a successful interview, or other test, and thus deeming them to have passed that stage, but not necessarily guaranteeing them a job
 
 

Positive action 2 – Work trials

As an employer, you could use work trials as an alternative method of assessing whether applicants with disabilities have the skills and competencies needed for a job; i.e. as an alternative to other traditional methods of making these assessments, such as interviews or tests.

Before taking this action, you should consider:

1. How you will treat those persons who successfully complete the trial in relation to employing them afterwards? Will you guarantee them the job for which they applied? 

2. The structure of the trial and what you will expect of the participants. What tasks will you set them to complete? How long will the trial last and will it be paid?

Guidance issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy outlines the factors that you should consider before proceeding with a job trial.
 

Positive action 3 – Removing any Barriers in the Recruitment Process

As an employer, it is good practice to engage with disabled people prior to recruitment to ensure that any barriers may be removed and that they are encouraged to apply. This may include explaining job roles so that disabled people are more confident to apply.

1. Proactively engage with disabled people and disability organisations to explain that you will be advertising vacancies and the nature of the work. This may include explaining the relevant knowledge and skills for the jobs being advertised.

2. Consider whether there are any skills or knowledge gaps that may prevent disabled applicants from participating in the recruitment process and whether the overall recruitment process is welcoming to disabled applicants.

3. Provide support to equip disabled applicants with the knowledge and skills they need to compete effectively in the recruitment process.

4. Provide a point of contact for disabled applicants where they require additional information or clarification on any aspect of the recruitment process. This point of contact should not be a member of the recruitment panel.
 

Positive action 4 – Guarantee interviews for disabled people

As an employer, it is good practice to offer interviews to all applicants with a disability who meet the minimum criteria for the job. 

Before taking action in respect of guaranteed interviews the Commission recommends that you:

1. Ensure that the process is clear and declared in advance.

2. Recognise that guaranteed interviews are most effective in assisting disabled people access employment when the disabled applicant is able to participate in an interview process on a fair and equitable basis. 

3. Proactively engage with disabled people and disability organisations to explain that you intend offering guaranteed interviews for disabled people in respect of proposed vacancies. 

4. In advance of guaranteed interview exercises, identify, in conjunction with disabled people and disability organisations, what knowledge and skills are required and if there are any skills or knowledge gaps that may prevent disabled applicants from participating in the recruitment process.  

5.  Provide training and support to equip disabled applicants with the knowledge and skills they need to compete effectively at interview. This may include the provision of pre-employment training, advice and support.

6. Provide a point of contact for the disabled applicant where they require additional information or clarification on any aspect of the recruitment process. This point of contact should not be a member of the recruitment panel.

7. Clarify the term “minimum criteria for the job” i.e. do you mean the essential criteria for the post, but not the desirable criteria?

8. Clarify how you will assess whether an applicant meets the minimum criteria. Employers will generally assess the information provided by the applicant in their application forms, but some employers may use a test.

9. Consider and advise what procedures you will put in place if, for example, you receive many more applications than you expected, making it impracticable to interview all eligible applicants.

10. Ensure that you properly identify those applicants who qualify and wish to avail of this positive action measure and ensure that this information is passed to the relevant selectors – for further guidance see the section: Application process: asking about disability - positive action

11. Ensure that you always consider the individual circumstances of each disabled applicant in relation to other elements of the recruitment process. For example, if you intend to require all applicants to sit an aptitude test, you might have to modify or waive that requirement for particular individuals in order to comply with any reasonable adjustment duty
 

Positive action 5 – Ring-fencing posts for disabled people

As an employer, you could ring-fence a number of vacant posts to be filled only by people who have a disability. 

Before taking such actions, you should consider:

1. What jobs, and how many, will be set aside in a given period: e.g. clerical, cleaning, portering, catering, construction, ICT, managerial?

2. Are other positive action measures to be taken and do they link? For example, have you guaranteed jobs to disabled people who have completed your vocational training programme or to people who have successfully completed a job trial?

3. When opening up opportunities to public competition, what selection criteria will you use if you receive more applications than there are available vacancies? Although it is lawful to open the competition only to disabled people, you should ensure that any selection processes are not discriminatory on any other of the equality grounds, such as sex, religious belief, race, age or sexual orientation.
 
 
 
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