BDF Research Find Employee Trust is Key to Understanding of Disability Needs

Image Credit: Scott Graham


UK’s national employers’ network and membership organisation, Business Disability Forum (BDF) has published research which found organisations need to build understanding and trust among employees when collecting global employee disability data.


The official Includability Partner which focusses on disability needs in the UK job market conducted the research which was sponsored by HSBC and includes insights from organisations such as Accenture, GSK, HSBC, Shell, Unilever and others. The organisations sought to gain an accurate picture of their disabled workforce by collecting employee data such as, experiences and opinions of Global Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Leads via group discussions, in depth interviews with members, and an online survey.


All BDF members were made publicly available, and the survey was open to anyone who held Global D&I responsibilities to respond.  


BDF say the reason for why the research found that with more organisations operating globally, the importance of collecting employee disability data at a global level was also growing. They found 67% of respondents said their organisations were already collecting global employee disability data in some form and, amongst those organisations that were not currently collecting data, 44% said they intended to do so within the next 18 months.


The key challenges to collecting data in order to build that accurate picture of disability needs were that 65% of respondents did not understand the value of sharing their data and 45% did not feel comfortable sharing data at all.


Although there could be potentially negative ramifications from sharing personal data with an employer, the participating organisations expressed the importance of being clear from the outset about the purpose of the data collected and the potential benefits that it could bring to the employee.  


Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, said:

“Employers need an accurate picture of their workforce so they can provide the best support and opportunities for their employees and help close the disability employment gap. When it comes to gender, it is clear that measurement drives transparency, scrutiny and ultimately, results. But measuring disability is inherently much more difficult. Over 90% of disabilities are not immediately visible and how to encourage your workforce to share is one of the most frequently asked questions of our Advice Service.

“Fear of being treated differently is one of the key reasons why employees do not share information about a disability or long-term condition. If we want to improve the working lives of disabled people, we need to create cultures built on openness and trust, where disabled employees feel safe to share with their employer.”


Based on the research, BDF developed four key recommendations for global organisations looking to collect and use global employee disability data:

  • Develop a clear and compelling reason, or set of reasons, why global employee disability data collection is important, and what it is intended to achieve.
  • Establish globally consistent and locally resonant terminology, systems and resources, which makes global employee disability data collection work.
  • Seek sponsorship, role modelling and accountability at the most senior level(s), which positions disability inclusion as a ‘call to action’ that impacts everyone.
  • Promote an organisational culture of psychological safety and trust, which enables employees to talk openly about disability and lived experience, without fear of detriment.?

Request the full research paper at Business Disability Forum