Don’t ignore disabled workers, and you can reap the benefits

Despite more disabled people in work since 2013, there is still a big divide between disabled employment and employment rates at large. Howard Trotter, Shelforce’s general manager, explains.

While the unemployment rate among job seekers in the UK stands at 3.7%, it rises to 9.3% when only considering people with disabilities actively looking for a job.

Which is a huge shame, because taking a chance on a disabled workforce could be the best business decision you make.

The challenges in recruitment nationally are well documented and, at a time when the window and door industry is facing a worsening skills shortage, a talented and enthusiastic disabled workforce could be the perfect solution to narrowing that skills gap.

We have been leading the way in inclusivity in the glazing industry, with 75% of our workforce disabled. We specialise in providing high quality products to local authority building projects, including social housing, and we are Birmingham City Council’s manufacturer of choice.

Taking on employees with disabilities can be a remedy to many staffing issues faced by the sector. With fewer people coming into the industry with the necessary skills, one of the biggest challenges we face is a skills shortage to keep it growing, so having an integrated approach to employment and an unconventional recruitment process is more vital now than it has ever been.

Our team are hugely skilled and they have contributed to a turnover of £2.7 million just five years after the company previously posted a £1.8 million loss.

Businesses really do miss out on potential staff through this employment gap. The talent is out there, employers have just got to take a chance on it.

We are also on the verge of opening a new training facility at our factory in Erdington to provide regular work experience placements for students from nearby schools, including special needs schools.

One of the many benefits of employing a disabled workforce is the hard-working attitude that they bring to a role, and Shelforce has seen a staggering efficiency increase thanks in part to our workers.

Production efficiency has increased by 659%, which is down to the best practice lean manufacturing the company has in place at our factory, and we are growing year-on-year as a result.

These guys have huge resilience and have faced more than their abled-bodied colleagues ever will. They have also faced huge challenges getting a job due to their disability, so they don’t want to lose it, which means their work rate is quite something.

But it is a two-way street; employers have to invest in somebody with a learning disability to get something out.

I’ve been in this industry for 25 years and I can quite honestly say I now have the best team I’ve ever managed.

Another huge benefit is disabled workers’ enthusiasm and reliability towards their company, something many businesses can struggle with when it comes to keeping their workforce motivated every day.

This is certainly something that I’ve seen first-hand. My team turn up early and ready to start work every day and rarely take a day off sick, sometimes coming in at weekends if a big order needs finishing.

You can teach any skill but what you can’t teach is enthusiasm, and disabled workers bring a passion and happiness into the workplace, as well as breaking down barriers and bringing teams closer together.

If you are willing to make that initial investment, you’re rewarded with the most passionate and dedicated workers you could ask for. And the pay-off for businesses also means a life-changing benefit for the individual too, as they feel they have been accepted in society and are not on the outside anymore.