Disabled People Still Face Barriers in the Workplace

Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking at the opening of the GAVI Alliance immunisations pledging conference in London, June 13 2011

A recent YouGov survey of senior British SME decision-makers commissioned by RICS has found that people with physical and mental disabilities still face significant barriers in the workplace.

RICS/YouGov SME Diversity Survey, June 2016, key findings:

  • 45% of senior decision-makers at British SMEs would describe their workplace as “difficult” for disabled people.
  • 18% saying disabled people were not supported in their workplace.
  • Over 30% said disabled access was a key barrier to increasing diversity.
  • 20% agreed that SMEs cannot afford to invest in diversity, while a similar number agree providing flexible working arrangements can prove costly.

A lack of appropriate access was viewed as the primary barrier to increasing diversity (31%) among SME decision-makers, followed by the lack of availability of diverse candidates (19%). 1 in 10 also noted the lack of diversity in business role models. While 48% agreed with the statement that “some industries are not suitable for disabled people”, a third felt that there were no barriers to increasing diversity in their workplace.

Founder of Disabled People in Construction and Senior Quantity Surveyor at Beard Construction Kevin Millin, who has been disabled for the last 10 years, commented: “While I’ve been fortunate to work for a supporting and accommodating company, I’m acutely aware of the challenges people with disabilities face in the workplace. Of course, there are the practical challenges but the message that people with disabilities can prosper within the construction and property industry needs to be louder to change attitudes. Small but significant changes must be made if we want to better utilise this largely untapped talent pool.”

Additionally, almost a quarter of respondents (23%) said that a pay gap still exists between men and women in SMEs while 20% agreed that SMEs cannot afford to invest in diversity, with a similar number (19%) including agreeing that providing flexible working arrangements can prove costly.

Having a diverse workforce is vital for future-proofing the property and construction industry. We have to ensure that our profession is relevant and fit for the future and one of the ways to ensure this is to make the workplace as accessible as possible so that we can reach out to and retain a diverse talent pool. The results of this survey show that there is still much to do in terms of breaking down barriers, altering perceptions and addressing the lack of support in some workplaces for those with disabilities.

Lucile Kamar, RICs Equalities Manager