New research cites workplace adjustments and organisational values as biggest aids to retention of disabled employees

New research carried out by Business Disability Forum (BDF) finds good workplace adjustment processes and organisational values to be the most important aids to the retention of disabled employees.

The second stage retention report follows-on from research released by BDF in July 2015 involving 145 employers nationally about the extent to which organisations have in place the types of practices associated with good retention and development of employees with disabilities and long term health conditions.

The report, entitled: State of the Nation: Retaining and developing employees with disabilities – Stage 2; was commissioned by BDF and supported by de Poel Community, EY, Royal Mail, Lloyds Banking Group, Department of Works and Pensions, Equal Approach and Remploy Employment Services.

Delving into the employee perspective, the second stage research involved 352 employees from across large private and public sector employers and compares the findings with employer perspectives to gain a more in-depth understanding of the biggest barriers and most effective aids in this area.

Key findings are that disabled employees prioritise workplace adjustments as fundamentally essential to their retention, with 1 in every 2 disabled employees stating this is the single most important aid to their retention and development.

Of concern however, is the degree to which disabled employees are less confident about the functioning of their workplace adjustment processes than non-disabled colleagues and employers. More than 3 in 10 disabled employees do not think that their organisation understands their legal obligations regarding workplace adjustments. Furthermore, close to 3 in 10 disabled employees did not know where to access advice about appropriate workplace adjustments from within their organisation and more than half did not know where they can access advice outside the organisation.

When contrasted with employer views, this is deeply troubling as 83% of employers felt that employees could easily access advice regarding adjustments.

The report also uncovers significant differences in perceptions about the visibility of disabled role models, with disabled employees much less likely to identify disabled role models in their organisation (30%) than non-disabled employees (46%).

Despite these differences, overwhelmingly, all employers and disabled and non-disabled employees identify that the skills and confidence of line managers is the single biggest barrier to the retention and development of disabled employees. As with their employers, just over half of employees reported this as the largest barrier to their retention and development. In the same way, more than half of all employers and employees also identified how fundamentally important organisational values are to whether there is good retention practice.

Commenting upon the research, George Selvanera, Director of Policy, Services and Communications at BDF said:

“It is encouraging the extent to which disabled employees largely point to the same factors as affecting their retention and progression as their employers. The skills and confidence of line managers being especially significant. At the same time, disabled employees place even more priority on adjustment processes that deliver the right adjustment quickly and to having opportunities for targeted development such as coaching and mentoring to build their skills and confidence.

“This research reminds us that giving visibility to disability and equipping line managers and HR professionals with the skills, confidence and tools to help disabled colleagues succeed and grow are fundamental for any organisation seeking to say they are disability confident.”



This is Business Disability Forum’s second survey into the ‘state of the nation’ in recruiting, retaining and developing employees with disabilities. Between the months of July and October 2015, employees were invited to fill out an 8-page, 21-question survey on their organisations and their knowledge and opinions of their retention practices. The survey was sent out to organisations, who were asked to circulate it via their disabled employee networks, and it was also promoted via social media. This data was then collected and presented to show how the employee perspective on how widespread best practice is across UK organisations for employees of different ages, genders, ethnic backgrounds and with or without disabilities.

Sample profile

352 employees responded to the survey, of which 345 gave a valid organisation name.

Employees were asked whether they were male (37%) or female (63%). They were also asked if they were from a black or ethnic minority (BME) community, with 8% selecting ‘yes’ and 92% selecting ‘no’. Employees were asked to indicate whether or not they were disabled or not disabled, and 61% said that they were disabled, while 39% said they were not.

The respondents were also asked to select their age group, with options being:

  • Under 25 (7%)
  • 26-35 (23%)
  • 36-45 (26%)
  • 46-60 (40%)
  • Over 60 (3%)


There are a few limitations to this data. Firstly, there is a bias towards representation of larger organisations with greater numbers employees, as the survey was primarily spread through disabled employee networks (DENs). There is also a bias towards female respondents (two thirds of all respondents), those in the 46-60 age category (two fifths of all respondents) and an extremely small amount of respondents were from a BME community, so caution should be taken in extrapolating the data as a representative of the entire UK workforce. Finally, one third of respondents indicated they were not disabled, so caution should also be exercised in taking the research as uniquely representing the perspectives of disabled employees.

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