Holby City’s Jules Robertson joined forces with leading figures from some of the UK’s largest public and private sector organisations at the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday to officially launch Purple – a new organisation set on improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
The actor, who was recently cast as Jason Haynes, a young man with Aspergers, on BBC’s Holby City, helped support the launch by encouraging businesses to ‘think outside the box and hire people who think differently’ as part of their employment strategies.
The launch of Purple comes as new research shows almost half of UK businesses (45 per cent) are apprehensive about hiring someone with a disability because of fears they won’t be able to do the job and concerns about making inappropriate comments or actions, according to new research.
The findings were revealed as part of a survey of a thousand businesses* to coincide with the launch of Purple – a new not-for-profit organisation which went live on Tuesday (12 July) – dedicated to improving employment opportunities for disabled people by supporting both business and individual.
The organisation is unique in offering both consultancy and recruitment services to help businesses drive inclusive employment strategies, whilst providing disabled people with greater levels of employment support. It aims to help more than 20,000 disabled people to find permanent jobs over the next decade, whilst simultaneously matching 25,000 personal assistants to disabled employers.
At Purple’s launch at the London Stock Exchange Jules Robertson, actor in the BBC medical drama Holby City, appealed directly to business:
“What makes me different from other actors is that I’m autistic. Life can be hard for autistic people, we want to work, we need to work, but it’s really difficult to get a job despite the fact that our brains are unique.
“Autistic people have amazing talents: some are very good with figures; some have very high IQ’s. They could add value to your business, and a job would help them value themselves. I can’t tell you how liberating it is to be finally earning a wage. Until recently my current account reminded me of all the girls I try to chat up – not showing the slightest interest. So it’s absolutely great to finally be able to tell my money where to go instead of wondering where it went. I encourage you to think outside the box and hire people who think differently, and who think laterally. So be brave, take a gamble by employing us. You won’t regret it”.
Purple carried out the research to determine the current barriers for business in employing disabled workers and found that one in five business owners and hiring managers (22 per cent) admit they are worried about interviewing someone with a disability in case they do or say the wrong thing. Fears include using the incorrect terminology (32 per cent) and not knowing whether they should help with things such as opening doors or pulling out chairs (38 per cent). One in five employers (21 per cent) said falling foul of discrimination law was a real concern.
Disabled people already fall significantly behind the rest of the population when it comes to the majority of wellbeing standards. Of the UK’s 11.5 million disabled people, just 49 per cent are currently in work, compared to 82 per cent of non-disabled people.
According to Purple, this latest research suggests misconceptions and prejudices are preventing disabled people from finding employment, with many being squeezed out of the job market at the first hurdle, regardless of professional ability.
Chief Executive of Purple, Mike Adams, said:
“We’ve always known that being disabled means you’re more likely to be unemployed and this has a real impact on both the career opportunities and quality of life. What this latest research tells us is that in fact it isn’t disability that’s the barrier to finding employment, but the worries and misconceptions of business owners themselves. This isn’t just a barrier for disabled people, but for many businesses missing out on valuable employee skills and talent, as well as powerful consumer opportunity.”
“With Purple we are taking a new, brave and bold approach to the problem. We want to work with business to address concerns whilst upskilling individuals to seize the opportunities available. We will give business and individual an equal voice and by not being afraid to tackle the issues on both sides we will change the conversation on disability employment.”
The benefits to businesses in creating a diverse workforce are huge, with the disability market, or ‘Purple Pound’ in the UK worth £212bn a year[i]. For wider society, just five percentage point increase in the disability employment rate would lead to an increase in GDP of £23bn by 2030[ii].
Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills Policy at the Institute of Directors, said:
“The dignity of a job and the assurance of a pay cheque should be available to all who aspire to it. The IoD and our members welcome the support Purple will offer to employers taking steps to bring more disabled people into the workforce and help them share in the opportunities that a job provides. ”
As part of its offering Purple will work with businesses and organisations to helping them become accredited as part of the Government’s Disability Confident scheme. For more information on Purple and the research findings go to www.wearepurple.org.uk.
[i] High street could be boosted by £212 billion ‘purple pound’ by attracting disabled people and their families https://www.gov.uk/government/news/high-street-could-be-boosted-by-212-billion-purple-pound-by-attracting-disabled-people-and-their-families
[ii] Landman Economics, Enabling work: disabled people, employment and the UK economy, April 2015 http://www.scope.org.uk/Scope/media/Images/Publication%20Directory/Landman_Report.PDF?ext=.pdf