Tracey Collins is the talent, development and inclusion manager at Kier Highways, primarily acting as the driving force behind creating and maintaining an inclusive workplace.

Here, Tracey explains how Kier Highways became a Disability Confident Employer and later, became the first company in the UK construction sector to become a Disability Confident Leader. By providing this useful information and personal advice, Tracey hopes to encourage those who are hoping to follow a similar path in becoming a more inclusive organisation.

“In 2017, we were shocked to see that 11.6% of our Kier Highways workforce chose that they preferred not to tell us if they had a disability. That’s higher than any of the other protected characteristics such as race, religion, sexual orientation etc and we found that only 3% of our workforce declared a disability. If our own workforce doubted us as a disability inclusive employer, then what chance did we have of attracting those with disabilities? 16% of the working age population in the UK are disabled and only 51% of these people are in employment. It’s certainly an untapped talent pool for us all.

We wanted to do something about this, so we looked into the Disability Confident scheme which is conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Since working towards this accreditation, we have witnessed a dramatic improvement. Now, over 10% of our employees declare a disability and only 2% choose the option of “prefer not to say”.

It took us two years from starting the journey on the Disability Confident scheme to becoming a Disability Confident Employer to achieving Disability Confident Leader status. We worked hard to accomplish this, and we committed to practices and behaviours to make the business more inclusive, diverse and attractive to people with disabilities.

We launched an Inclusive Recruitment Policy; equality, diversity & inclusion steering and action groups; a Disability Confident Forum for employees with disabilities to test practices and procedures; and introduced bi-annual Inclusion Weeks.

It has been hugely beneficial to us to join the scheme that helps employers embrace the talents disabled people bring to the workplace. It’s a fantastic scheme that helps you to focus on the things that will make the most difference to your business.

The Disability Confident scheme has 3 levels:

Level 1 – Disability Confidence Committed
Level 2 – Disability Confident Employer
Level 3 – Disability Confident Leader

We didn’t know where to start on our journey; but the scheme helped us to create a focused action plan that really made a difference to us as a business. The scheme encourages you to evaluate your own business, to look at what you already do (and what you don’t) and finally come up with an action plan that you design and deliver.

So, what have we learnt along the way?

Don’t try and do this yourself - There are some great organisations out there who can support you on your journey. We partnered with Disability Rights UK and the BASE (The British Association for Supported Employment). Alongside the DWP, we had some great expert help and advice.

Start by raising awareness in your own organisation - If you are to become a true Disability Confident employer, it is important that everyone understands the part they play.

Help people in your organisation to become Disability Confident - There is some great training available to help people become more disability confident.

We found that over 50% of those declaring a disability in Kier Highways were mental health related - You may want to review what support is in place within your organisation for those with mental health issues and ensure that everyone is aware of this. We found that despite there being a lot of support available, people simply didn’t know it was there or how they were able to access it.

To become Disability Confident, it’s vital that your recruiting managers and HR professionals are trained on inclusive recruitment - We found that we trained our line managers on so many things but never gave them the skills to carry out an inclusive interview. Now all our recruiting managers undergo inclusive recruitment training and they have found it incredibly useful.

Think about how you ensure those with disabilities know your vacancies are accessible to them - We now advertise our vacancies with a range of people and job boards that we would have never thought of before.

Utilise your experts - You will no doubt have people within your organisation who may have disabilities themselves or have experience in this field. We launched a Disability Confident focus group made up of experts and this gave us some real focus and helped us on our journey.

We are extremely proud of the progress we have made so far and will continue to make Kier Highways an even more inclusive environment for everyone. In addition to continuing onwards with our own efforts, we are passionate and committed to help others become Disability Confident.”