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People with learning disabilities can provide the talent your workforce needs

As UK businesses see high levels of vacancies across key sectors of the economy and face significant challenges with retaining their staff, why are people with a learning disability struggling to find a job?

As UK businesses see high levels of vacancies across key sectors of the economy and face significant challenges with retaining their staff, why are people with a learning disability struggling to find a job?  

As the leading learning disability charity in the UK, Mencap has been supporting people with a learning disability into paid work since 1974. Frustratingly, the employment rates have stayed consistently low. Our own Big Listen survey in 2022 found that of the approximate 870,000 working-age adults with a learning disability in the UK, less than a third (26.7%) are in paid work. This is the lowest employment rate of any health condition or disability.  

But many people with a learning disability want to work! 

A staggering 86% of respondents to the The Work and Learning Disability Research Report by the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) with a learning disability who did not have a paid job said that they would like one. Their ambitions cover a variety of roles and across many different sectors: including office work (17%), hospitality (11%), to health/social care (17%), and retail (11%). Having a job is hugely beneficial to people with a learning disability, granting them independence, a chance to socialise, and valuable life skills.  

It goes both ways, too-we know there are many, many benefits to employers. 

Findings from our research indicate: 

  • People with a learning disability stay in their jobs 3.5 times longer than their non-disabled co-workers 
  • Employing people with a learning disability has a positive impact on staff morale. 72.2% of employers regard the impact on company morale as an “important factor” in deciding to employ people with a learning disability 
  • Positive public perception of companies with a diverse workforce 
  • Having a diverse workforce brings different perspectives to a business and representing a broader customer base.  
  • Our research also shows that people with a learning disability have a lower than average sickness absence, and are hard-working, with a strong loyalty to the company they work for. 

Don’t just take my word for it. Leading pub retailer and brewer Greene King is an employer we’ve worked with for the past two years.  With Mencap’s support, they’ve managed to find ways to make reasonable adjustments and develop people through supported internship programmes into paid employment.  

Lynne Kennedy, Talent Development Manager at Greene King, has told us: 

“We understand the value of a diverse workforce and over the past two years we have worked with Mencap as part of our Supported Internship programme, offering work experience to interns with Special Educational Needs and an Education and Health Care Plan. The programme offers 16–24-year-olds the opportunity to develop life skills and gain valuable experience in a work environment.   

“All of our interns have been hardworking and enthusiastic, and it’s been a pleasure to see their confidence grow as they learn new skills. As a result of completing a Greene King Supported Internship, 73% have gone on to secure paid employment, which is fantastic.” 

We urge more employers to be open minded to diversifying their workforce. Making reasonable adjustments will create a pipeline of talent that is currently massively underutilised.  

You don’t have to start from scratch, either- organisations like Mencap offer Supported Internship and Supported Employment programmes which can provide employers with all the help they need to make this happen. Often, with no cost to the employer.  

If your organisation needs help implementing your policies for diversifying your workforce, please reach out to us so we can work together to make the UK the best place in the world for people with a learning disability to live. 

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