30 Nov 2018
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The UN’s International Day for Persons with Disabilities

This post was written by Meg Horsburgh, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Sodexo UK and Ireland

Monday 3rd December 2018 is the UN’s International Day for Persons with Disabilities, a day designed to promote a better understanding of disability and to mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of those with disabilities. For Sodexo, this day provides us with a valuable moment in time to affirm our commitment to employees with disabilities, as part of our wider diversity and inclusion strategy. It also enables us to share and celebrate the great work that our teams are doing in partnership with clients to make our commitments a reality.

In the UK 16% of working age adults report having a disability and whilst 80.6% of people without disabilities are employed, the figure for those with disabilities is only 49.2%. Recognising this “disability gap”, the Government has set a target to get more than one million more disabled people to be in work by 2027.

At Sodexo we are passionate about inclusion and recruiting, engaging and developing employees with a disability is a vital component. We are therefore delighted to have gained Disability Confident Leader status (as part of the Government’s Disability Confident Scheme), an external validation achieved by only 158 UK companies

This builds on the global commitment Sodexo made in 2015 to provide 100% of our workforce with access to programmes for people with disabilities by 2025.

To achieve our Disability Confident Leader status we have focused on ensuring that disability awareness and action is integrated into policies, practices and behaviours at every level of our business.

This week we’ll be sharing some great examples of how we are working in partnership with our clients and third party organisations to support disabled people into employment with the intention of inspiring other organisations.

As part of a partnership with our client J&J, for example, we have provided employment and training opportunities for young people with a range of disabilities including learning disabilities and autistic spectrum disorder. This successful programme helps the participants build skills and confidence needed for their future careers.

Similarly in our healthcare business, schemes run at more than 10 of our contracts, including those in large hospitals and with NHS trusts. Through these schemes the segment has provided placements to more than 120 interns since 2002, in roles such as hospital portering, catering and administration. Whilst the intent of the schemes is to increase employability skills and confidence in the recipients, they have also proved themselves to be a pipeline for talent with over 40 trainees going on to secure permanent employment with Sodexo.

We are also using this week to refocus on our ‘Open our minds’ campaign which has seen colleagues share their personal experiences of disability from different perspectives. It encourages employees to become more aware of the impact disability can have on our colleagues, customers and their families and to become more confident in discussing disability (including mental health and wellbeing).

There is clearly a long way to go to close the ‘disability gap’ but the more awareness we can create, and the more we can work in partnership with clients and customers on positive steps towards a more inclusive workplace, the more we can strive towards the UN’s goal for today – to empower persons with disabilities and ensure inclusiveness and equality.

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