For years the hospitality industry has been encouraged to enforce accessibility for both staff and customers, but since the Government announced, in December 2018, that it will be rolling out a new £40 million voluntary scheme to [CH1] help unemployed disabled people back in work, there has been an added focus on the industry. The scheme, which will be launched throughout England and Wales, aims to provide “highly personalised packages of employment support for people who are at least a year away from moving into work”, with the target of supporting 10,000 disabled people over four years.

This initiative is about giving people the skills and confidence to get back into the workplace.

It is a very common misconception that people think being disabled instantly means someone in a wheelchair, but a disability can be any physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities. Impaired vision or hearing, learning difficulties, even conditions like epilepsy all come under the disability banner.

Statistics show that in Britain, nearly one in five people of working age (7 million, or 18.6%) has a disability, but only 50% of them are in work compared to 80% of the able-bodied community.

According to the Business Disability Forum, an average of 2% of the working-age population develop a disability every year. The incidence of disability increases post age 45, with an ageing workforce it is inevitable that more employees will develop a disability during their career. This means that organisations risk losing experience and talent unless they adopt an ethos of retaining staff whose circumstances change, either personally or because they are affected by disability.

Therefore, it is essential for such an important industry as the hospitality workforce, to look to adapting their strategies to make it accessible for all. Many hotels, restaurants and bars are members of the Employers’ Forum on Disability (EFD), the world’s leading employers’ organisation focused on enabling companies to become disability confident by making it easier to recruit and retain employees with disabilities.

Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey found that employees with disabilities are more likely to stay loyal to a company for longer and that their sickness rates are comparably lower. These figures enforce the importance and the benefits of ensuring your business is implementing, or planning to further implement, having a more disability diverse workforce.