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MPs call for ‘meaningful action’ on getting disabled people into work

Conservative Alex Burghart suggested companies should report how many disabled people they have in their workforce.

Employers should be financially incentivised to hire disabled people, a Tory MP has said, amid calls for big companies to report how many disabled workers they have.

Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden) suggested using taxes to encourage employers to take on more people with disabilities, especially in industries where they are not represented.

His comments came as MPs passed a non-binding motion calling on the Government to act on its commitment to get one million disabled people into work by 2027.

Conservative Alex Burghart suggested companies should report how many disabled people they have in their workforce, saying it would root out “larger employers that are not pulling their weight and taking advantage of the high quality, disabled employees who are in the market”.

Mr Afolami said there were two ways the Government needed to “drive this turbocharge” to boost employment rates of those with disabilities, telling the Commons: “The first is to financially incentivise, perhaps through the tax system or in another way, employers to take on more people with disabilities, especially in industries where typically today they may not be found.

“But in conjunction with that, and this is a critical bit, the way that that will happen appropriately and this is what businesses tell me when I have this discussion with them, is that we need to be able to have a much better understanding of the different capabilities of different people with disabilities so that we can make sure we match the right employment opportunities with the right people.

“And if we do that properly, combined with proper incentives for business, I think we can really see a huge increase in this area.”

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Mr Afolami said that once more people with disabilities get into the workplace and progress to the top they will “show what they can contribute”, sending a “powerful message” to the country.

Mr Burghart, a member of the Work and Pensions select committee, said: “Does (Dr Lisa Cameron) think that there may be a case for having larger employers report on the proportion of their workforce that has a disability, so that we can see those larger employers that are not pulling their weight and taking advantage of the high quality, disabled employees who are in the market?”

Dr Cameron, chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability, said she agreed with the proposal.

She also said the Government could use public procurement as leverage, only awarding public contracts to firms which monitor disabled people’s employment and commit to adopting an inclusive approach to recruitment and retention of staff.

“We will not see significant increases in the number of disabled people in employment unless employers can be encouraged to up their game,” she added.

During the backbench business debate, Dr Cameron highlighted the disability employment gap, which stands at 31.4%.

While around 80% of non-disabled people of working age are employed, this compares to around 49% of their disabled peers, she added.

Dr Cameron also cited research that disabled people had to apply for up to 60% more jobs before securing employment.

“All too often people with disabilities are portrayed as passive and unwilling to work,” she said.

“However, this could never be further from the truth, so I want to use this debate today to change the narrative.

“I want to see meaningful action, rather than research and rhetoric.”

Dr Cameron was also critical of the Government’s flagship Disability Confident scheme, saying the scheme does not go far enough and does not result in enough people being employed.

Work and Pensions Minister Sarah Newton, responding later, said: “This is not a failing scheme, it is a growing scheme.

“We’re looking at what more we can do to incentive businesses, publishing the levels of disability employment, especially from large employers and looking at what more we can do to communicate the wide range of help that’s available to support businesses and public sector organisations to employ disabled people.”

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