18/08/2015 11:12 BST | Updated 17/08/2016 06:59 BST

Does Your Workforce Reflect Your Customer Base?


Amongst the employment figures released last week, one thing in particular caught my eye.

After two years of our groundbreaking Disability Confident campaign, 351,000 more disabled people have found work. There are now almost 3.25m disabled people in employment in the UK.

When the Prime Minister launched the campaign back in July 2013, he called on employers to recognise the value of disabled employees and to do more to recruit people from a range of backgrounds.

So what started with our first partner, Barclays, who sponsored our launch event, has now become a force of more than 360 employers supporting the campaign and promoting employment opportunities for disabled people. It's clear that businesses are waking up to the talent which is out there.

Hundreds of thousands more disabled people with the satisfaction of being able to work towards their career ambitions, and the dignity of being able to contribute to their own household income is welcome news and a strong step forward to achieving our goal of halving the disability employment gap.

However we need to go further. The employment figures also told us that there are 735,000 vacancies in the economy, a near-record number. The fact that all these vacancies exist, yet there are currently 1.3 million disabled people in the UK who are available for and want to work, is a paradox which must be addressed. Businesses should be asking themselves why they are not drawing from this untapped resource.

There are clear business benefits to implementing a diverse recruitment policy. Not only will it increase the number of high-quality applicants for a post, it will also create a workforce that accurately reflects the diversity of the company's customer base.

The spending power of disabled households, the Purple Pound, is estimated at over £200billion and many employers have found that a good representation of disabled staff is the key to connecting with disabled customers. The most successful businesses need to be alive not just to the skills and experience that the millions of disabled people in the UK have to offer but the benefits of hiring a diverse workforce.

We are currently reforming key levers at our disposal to help more disabled people into employment, particularly the support available to people on out-of-work benefits and the Access to Work scheme which provides financial assistance to those in work. We are incentivising and supporting jobseekers to find work and providing funding to cover any additional costs stopping someone from doing a job.

This government is committed to working towards full employment in the UK - and people with disabilities are not excluded from this bold ambition. Businesses striving for success need to be proactive in snapping up this talent before their competitors do.

If you'd like to find out more about the Disability Confident campaign and also become a partner, you can visit our LinkedIn Showcase Page or GOV.UK

As ever, I'd be interested to hear your views on the Disability Confident campaign or other issues around disability employment below.