A disability needn’t stop you getting the job you want. We spoke to Jane Hatton, the founder of diverse job website Evenbreak, who told us just that.
Jane has a degenerative spinal condition which means that she works lying down with her laptop suspended in the air. Here she tells List for Life how her disability has spurred her on, what her advice is to young people with disabilities and what exactly employers think. This will be the most inspirational and insightful thing you read all day.
1. How did you get to where you are today?
Long before I became disabled myself, I was a Diversity Trainer, travelling up and down the UK helping employers understand how they could benefit through having a more diverse workforce.
When talking about disabled people I came across a variety of reactions, from employers really being against the whole idea of employing disabled people, to employers who wished they could employ more, but found it difficult to attract them. I had employed disabled people myself, and so had experienced the business benefits of employing such talent.
Then around twelve years ago, I unexpectedly became disabled myself. I have a degenerative spinal condition which has continued to worsen, despite a number of spinal surgeries. By this time I could see the issues around disability and employment from a number of perspectives – as an employer and as a disabled person myself. I decided I wanted to tackle some of these issues.
2. Tell us about Evenbreak. What do you do and what are your team like?
Evenbreak is a not-for-profit social enterprise; an accessible online job board run by disabled people for disabled people, with three main aims:
- To help inclusive employers attract more talented disabled candidates
- To help disabled job seekers find work with employers who will value their skills
- To promote the business benefits of employing disabled people
I run Evenbreak lying flat with a laptop suspended above me, as my spinal condition limits my ability to sit. All of the Evenbreak team are also disabled (including a Data Entry Clerk with severe ME, an Admin Assistant who is deaf, a Publicity Manager who is a stroke survivor and an Employer Engagement Officer with arthritis) and we all work flexibly from home.
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We work with employers such as EY, Network Rail, E.ON, John Lewis, Wellcome Trust and many others to help them attract talented disabled applicants when they advertise their roles. Using Evenbreak positions them very strongly as genuinely inclusive employers, giving our candidates the confidence to apply. We also work with disabled candidates, and organisations who support them.
3. What advice would you give to young disabled or diverse people who are looking for work?
My advice would be to identify your skills and talents, focus on the positive things you would bring to the workplace, and then ensure that you sell those to the employer. Don’t worry about being disabled – make sure prospective employers can see all of the qualities and skills you have that they are looking for. And be persistent!
4. Do employers have to hire a certain amount of diverse people. What do you think about this? Should/could they be doing more?
We no longer have quotas for the amount of disabled people employers should employ, but there is legislation making discriminating against disabled people unlawful. Some of the employers we work with understand why they should be employing more disabled people and are working very hard to make their organisations more inclusive and accessible. Sadly, however, they are in the minority, and most employers – if they think about diversity at all (many don’t) – focus on race and gender only, with disability often being forgotten. There is much more work to be done to encourage employers to employ disabled people.
5. What are the main business benefits to employers of hiring disabled people?
In addition to the obvious legal, ethical and moral reasons for employing disabled people, there are many solid commercial reasons too (see attached document). These include disabled people on average being just as productive as their non-disabled colleagues, and also having significantly less time off sick, fewer workplace accidents and staying in their jobs longer. Disabled people tend to develop additional skills to manage the barriers they face; skills such as creative problem-solving, tenacity, innovation, determination and resilience. Also, disabled employees can give valuable insight into the “disability market” – the 11 million disabled people living in the UK who spend over £80 billion every year, giving their employers competitive advantage.
Find out more about Evenbreak and what they can offer you here