How to reach and build on the 3% employment target for people with disabilities: Guidance for public bodies

Plan to achieve employment target

The employment target for employees with disabilities is an important statutory duty on public bodies, as set out in Part 5 of the Disability Act 2005. The overriding purpose of this area of legislation is to ensure people with disabilities get the opportunity to work and to make progress in their careers.

Under the Comprehensive Strategy for People with Disabilities (2015 – 2024), the Government has committed to increasing the public service employment target  for persons with disabilities on an incremental basis from a minimum of 3% to a minimum of 6% by 2024.

Key elements of that planned approach would be:

  • Provide leadership and plan for a positive to disability work culture
  • Create an environment where staff feel supported and equally valued if they disclose a disability
  • Ensure that achieving, and going beyond, the 3% target is built into mainstream workforce planning
  • Anticipate that people with disabilities who are currently on your staff may leave or retire, and plan ahead for how you are going to continue and build the proportion of staff with disabilities
  • Build-in the requirement to have at least 3% of staff with disabilities into your long-term recruitment strategy, and into each recruitment process you undertake
  • Support your current employees to remain in work – those of your staff who now have a disability, and those who may experience onset of a disability in the future
  • Review your personnel policies and practices to ensure they give effect to your legal obligation to “promote and support the employment of people with disabilities” (Disability Act) as well as your obligations under the Employment Equality Acts
  • Plan for an accessible work environment
  • Learn from good practice in the public sector, through liaison with sister bodies which are similar to your own that have achieved success, and though linking in to the relevant public service networks

The National Disability Authority and other organisations have developed a number of useful web resources that can offer detailed guidance.

The National Disability Authority has separate guidance for public bodies on how to conduct an accurate count of staff with disabilities and to make a statutory return.

Provide leadership that is positive to disability

Research shows that providing clear leadership is a key to success in employment of people with disabilities. Senior managers need to be visibly committed to promoting the employment of staff with disabilities in their organisation, and to building up the numbers employed.

National Disability Authority research on Effective Leadership and Organisational Culture for the Recruitment and Retention of People with Disabilities in the Irish Public Sector has concluded:

  • Effective target setting and monitoring are essential to success
  • Involving staff in development of a disability policy or code of practice enhances their sense of ownership
  • The culture of the organisation should be one which demonstrates that people with disabilities are regarded as competent and are genuinely valued in the workforce
  • Tackle people’s fear about disclosing a disability, by demonstrating that people who so disclose are supported and do not experience any negative consequences
  • Build a disability focus into the organisation’s mainstream work programme
  • Increasing contact with people with disabilities helps to build more inclusive attitudes towards disability. work placements, work-shadowing and mentoring schemes can help
  • Disability training for all staff, including senior management, is important
  • Flexibility and accommodation of disability can benefit the organisation as a whole, but should occur within a broader culture of flexibility to avoid any build-up of resentment towards disabled colleagues
  • Effective induction and a career development culture help retain staff with a disability
  • The informal and social aspects of workplace life are essential, and paying attention to a workplace culture that is inclusive in these respects

Aim to do more than 3%

Public bodies should look to set higher goals for what they can achieve in terms of numbers of staff with disabilities. Aiming higher is an excellent way to ensure that the minimum target is comfortably achieved, and that the departure of one or two staff should not affect meeting the target.

Build the 3% target into mainstream workforce planning

The 3% target is an ongoing legal commitment that should be built in to future planning for your workforce needs:

  • What are your future skills requirements likely to be
  • How can you skill up current employees with disabilities to meet your future anticipated needs
  • How can you work in partnership with education and training bodies to plan for future availability of people with disabilities who may have the skill sets you will be looking for
  • Alert relevant disability organisations about recruitment opportunities you are likely to have over the coming years, so that they can respond

Build the 3% target into your recruitment strategy

Think ahead about how you are going to meet and improve on the 3% target in the future:

  • What changes do you anticipate in your current workforce over time from anticipated staff turnover and retirements, and how is that likely to affect the proportion of your workforce with a disability
  • How many people with disabilities will you need to recruit in coming years to achieve or maintain the 3% target
  • The pool of potential applicants with disabilities is likely to be higher for jobs with generic skill sets than for highly specialised functions. consider the option of special competitions for applicants with disabilities as part of your strategy to meet future generic skills needs
  • Look at job descriptions to see whether combining job tasks in different ways could open up opportunities to work for people with disabilities who may be challenged to fulfil some jobs as those are currently specified
  • Look at offering part-time job options. some people with disabilities require a shorter working day
  • Consider a strategy to offer internships and work experience to people with disabilities
  • Consider a strategy to provide job opportunities under supported employment
  • Clarify the function and purpose of medical assessment in your recruitment process

Target your recruitment

  • When you are recruiting, include an explicit statement in any notices or advertising that you would welcome applications from people with disabilities
  • Contact local disability organisations to alert them to your job advertisement
  • Alternative selection processes to the traditional job interview may give you a better idea of the skills and capacities of some job applicants with disabilities, for example offering job trials. consider using these alternative selection methods
  • Ensure you can accommodate candidates with disabilities at interview, and make potential applicants aware that you can make those arrangements if required
  • Ensure your selection panel has the knowledge and skills they need to evaluate job candidates with disabilities
  • Mock interviews with people with disabilities can provide a good opportunity for selection panels to learn
  • Clarify the role and function of medical assessment procedures to potential job candidates
  • Consider offering internships to people with disabilities to help grow the pool of talent. Willing, Able Mentoring (WAM) is a programme to place and support graduate interns with disabilities, for information contact Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD)

Retain staff with a disability

Ensure staff with disabilities have a positive experience that encourages them to remain in employment:

  • Ensure staff with a disability are given the supports they need to do their job
  • Ensure staff with disabilities have an opportunity to do work that is personally satisfying and rewarding
  • Ensure staff with disabilities are given development and training opportunities, including lateral moves, and get opportunities for career progression
  • Ensure staff with disabilities are well integrated into the workplace

Put in place policies and practices that support return to work after onset of a disability. See the National Disability Authority's Guidance on Job Retention.

Ensure appropriate HR policies are in place

  • Ensure your standard HR policies and procedures are disability-proofed
  • Ensure your sick leave and attendance management policies are aligned with your job retention policy
  • Adopt and implement a code of practice on employment of people with disabilities. the Civil Service Code of Practice is an excellent model
  • Use the Health and Safety Authority’s guide to safe employment of people with disabilities
  • Put in place systems to support implementation of the relevant policies or code of practice, and to monitor implementation

Work environment

  • Promote a positive to disability work environment
  • Promote a culture in which staff would be comfortable to disclose a disability
  • Make it clear to staff what supports are offered should they develop or disclose a disability
  • Promote positive mental health in the workplace
  • Provide access to an employee assistance scheme
  • Ensure colleagues have received disability awareness training – see the National Disability Authority E-learning course
  • Ensure procedures, information and communication at work are accessible to staff with disabilities – see National Disability Authority Accessibility Toolkit
  • Ensure that buildings and their surroundings are accessible to people with disabilities – see Building for Everyone
  • Ensure that accessibility of the work environment is maintained and checked

Draw on sources of good practice and advice

  • Link in with networks of support for example disability liaison officer network, equality officer network, access officer network. For further details see Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
  • Link in with relevant disability support organisations who may have a wealth of information on how to support someone with a specific condition or specific needs
  • Consult sister organisations, such as those of similar function or scale, on the measures they are taking, which you could copy
  • Link in with internal resources that support customers with disability. an example, in the third level sector, would be disability support officers for students
  • Consult with your staff with disabilities, who bring expertise on what it is like to work in your organisation with a disability
  • Aim to include staff with disabilities in mechanisms such as your partnership committee
  • Link in with Irish Congress Trade Unions (ICTU) disability champions
  • Link with Kanchi