Sainsbury’s company secretary Tim Fallowfield reveals how the grocer is creating an inclusive environment where all staff can fulfil their potential, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability.
This is not only because inclusion is in line with our company values but also because we believe diverse teams are higher performing, more creative and lead to better decisions for our customers.
However, when it comes to the employment of disabled people, many organisations haven’t yet realised the significant business benefits these individuals can bring.
More than 7 million people of working age in the UK – 17.5% of the population – have a disability or health condition. This represents a significant pool of talent that employers fail to reach if they do not take active steps to become Disability Confident.
Like with all areas of diversity, disabled people provide organisations with different perspectives and help them to reach better decisions for their customers.
“More than 7 million people of working age in the UK have a disability or health condition. This represents a significant pool of talent that employers fail to reach if they do not take active steps to become Disability Confident”
Creating an inclusive environment
Sainsbury’s is striving to create an inclusive environment where all managers feel confident in approaching conversations with their disabled colleagues about any workplace adjustments they may need and to remove any barriers to their success.
We work with managers, helping them to think proactively about how everyone can work better together, and train them to treat employees with sensitivity and respect.
Encouraging these constructive conversations can also improve productivity. By asking disabled team members about their needs, many managers quickly realise their employees are capable of doing more than they’d assumed they could.
Workplace adjustments are often simple and quick to implement without any significant cost, such as a change in shift pattern or communicating through different formats.
Other colleagues may need adjustments to their equipment – the Government’s Access to Work grants can pay for all sorts of practical support, from fitting special computer screens or keyboards, to transport to work.
Often small changes can help unlock a colleague’s full potential, which in turn is beneficial to the employer.
We have also developed a number of initiatives, from our You Can programme – which enables us to recruit colleagues who may face barriers to employment – to creating a guide to workplace adjustments for our managers.
“Often small changes can help unlock a colleague’s full potential, which in turn is beneficial to the employer”
Becoming Disability Confident
Through our involvement with the Department for Work and Pensions, I now chair the Disability Confident Business Leaders Group.
As a group, we hope to encourage as many employers as possible to feel confident in employing people with a disability, providing those colleagues with the opportunity to realise their potential.
There’s no doubt that businesses across the UK are at different stages in this journey, but becoming Disability Confident is a great place to start and can help to attract and hold on to valuable skills and experience, while improving company culture, reducing absences through sickness and improving your brand reputation.