Upskilling your Workforce: A Disability Guide for Line Managers

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Purple View Point

To become a truly disability confident organisation takes leadership and buy-in from your whole management team. It also requires knowledgeable, experienced and confident line managers to implement good policy and practice.

Purple believe that line managers are fundamental to the delivery of a disability confident experience for employees. Line managers are the people who will need to deliver the disability-related approaches your organisation implements, whether it’s during a recruitment process as the hiring line manager, during pre-employment discussions around reasonable adjustments, or throughout their employment with you. Line managers are the key driver for changing the disability culture in an organisation.

Disability can no longer be viewed just as a HR issue, but needs to be owned by the people who will provide day to day management and support of your staff.

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To create a fully inclusive culture, and ensure your organisational approach to disability is embedded, line managers must be confident in disability policy, organisation process, and able to have honest conversations about performance. Line managers need to own all their staff and address issues throughout their people management, from recruitment, to pre-employment, through to supporting team members who acquire an impairment during their employment.

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Advice & Guidance

  • Raising Disability Issues: We know a fear of doing or saying the wrong thing is one of the biggest barriers to engaging with disabled people. It is vital to establish an open conversation with your staff, providing opportunities for them to talk about any issues they may be experiencing, and encouraging them to feel confident to do so.
  • Creating Positive Disability Team Culture: Disability should not be a taboo issue in your organisation. Ensure a clear commitment to recruiting disabled people, and retaining staff who acquire an impairment, is part of your employee induction and approach to disability is openly discussed at team meetings – both from an employee and customer perspective.
  • Reasonable Adjustments: Ensure you ask the question on whether any reasonable adjustments are required before interview so you ensure disabled applicants know you encourage them to apply, and are happy to discuss disability. If you appoint someone with a disability, ask them the question. This will encourage openness about their impairment at the start of your work relationship. If someone acquires an impairment while they work for you, ask whether any reasonable adjustments could support them to continue undertaking the role they are currently doing. Supporting them to stay in your employment, and thereby retaining their valuable skills and experience makes business sense. Make all staff know discussing reasonable adjustments is an ongoing conversation.
  • Acquired Impairments: Often a person who acquires a disability will have some time off work. Ensure you keep the communication lines with them open and honestly discuss the impact their disability has had on them and how you can support them to return to their role.
  • Disability-related Absence: When undertaking return to work interviews with a disabled employee, establish whether their absence has been impairment-related, and support them accordingly. Your organisation may have a separate approach to disability-related absence and how this is managed.
  • Disability and Performance Management: It is important disability and capability don’t become conflated. A disabled employee must be delivering their role to the standard you would expect of any employee. Where any suggestion is made that unsatisfactory performance is due to disability, reasonable adjustments should be explored with the employee. Where reasonable adjustments do not resolve the problem, your organisations standard capability policy and procedure should be implemented.
  • Disability Confident Training: Ask your staff to attend disability awareness training to build their understanding and confidence of disability. This will create a culture where your team are ‘comfortable’ with disability and feel able to engage with either disabled peers or disabled customers.


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