What does inclusive employment actually look like?
1. The application process is often the biggest barrier – change that now, give applicants different options and ways to apply and different routes to interview
2. Small changes/flexibility can make a big difference – for example offering short shift lengths or contracts that are under 16 hours her week
3. Embrace difference and diversity – it brings additional skills and loyalty to your workforce – understand that truly inclusive employment also makes sense financially, it’s not just about “doing the right thing”
4. Some people just need a bit of extra time – Access To Work can provide incredible support to your employees that will give them that extra support
5. Don’t be afraid of feedback – for example, if someone says “I don’t understand”, try to take the time to explain and communicate differently
6. Be patient – things sometimes take longer than expected
7. It isn’t about what you say, it’s about what you actually do, day-to-day – it’s all well and good having an inclusion and diversity statement – but what do you actually do to be truly inclusive?
8. It doesn’t have to be perfect – don’t be so scared of getting it wrong that you don’t do anything
Real Life Example
As part of the GEM project, I supported HL in her search for work. HL is 26 and has Down’s Syndrome. She has always wanted to work but her previous negative experiences with work experience and paid roles meant that HL was worried about some aspects of getting a job.
I worked with HL for 6 months to increase her confidence around being in a workplace. To begin with we visited all of the charity shops in Stonehouse to see if there was one that she would like to volunteer in – we found the Sue Ryder charity shop on the high street. HL immediately felt welcomed and all the staff were generous with their time. After several months of volunteering at the charity shop on a weekly basis, HL told me that she was ready to get a paid job.
So HL and I went along to an Inclusive Job fair run by the Inclusivity Works. Gloucester Services had a stall there and they tempted HL and I with their gorgeous cakes. In partnership with Gloucestershire Gateway Trust, Gloucester Services runs a regular 3-day course called “Bridging the Gap” that is designed to support potential applicants who might struggle through the traditional application process.
As part of the course, HL worked on her CV, practised her interview skills, and had a tour around the different areas of the service station culminating in a guaranteed interview.
HL was successful at her interview and she was offered a 4 ½ hour shift per week working in the café – this was ideal for her as HL has a heart condition associated with her Down’s Syndrome, so gets tired easily.
The next step was to apply for support from Access To Work – HL needs a taxi to get her to work as the public transport option is not safe for her, and an in-work job coach to help her learn the ropes and settle in. Gloucester Services were happy to wait until this was all in place before HL started.
Communication wasn’t always great as this was all during the summer holidays – the Services busiest time of the year – but we got there in the end and it is important to note that the everyone at the Services was willing to make it work. They arranged for HL to have her own individual induction session and I supported her to attend it.
As I already had a good working relationship with HL, I worked as her job coach over approximately 140 hours. This meant that colleagues and managers didn’t need to take extra time to provide HL with the repetitive training and extra communication that she needed – they would take us both through a task and then I would support HL to find the best way for her to do it and then repeat it until she was confident doing it alone. I slowly withdrew as I saw she was able to complete tasks independently.
I also supported HL to integrate with her colleagues and (gently) educated those that needed to change the way that they communicated with HL. The role of the job coach is not only supporting their client but also supporting their clients colleagues and employer to see and do things differently where necessary.
HL is Gloucester Services first member of staff with Down’s Syndrome, something that the Services is very proud of. HL is a truly valued member of the team and her area manager told me that “I wish we had 20 HLs working for us.” HL is now working independently and enjoys having a paid job where she is valued for who she is.
“I love working at Gloucester Services as I get to talk to people, I also like getting all of my jobs done before going home. I acknowledge the fact that I get tired during the second half of my shift. I got to meet new people when I first joined and got to work with Tosca who helped to teach me new skills like potwashing and cleaning the high chairs. I can’t wait to go back this Saturday.”
Read more about our Third Space programme.
For more information on local inclusive employers and useful resources visit www.inclusivityworks.org.