Hello and welcome to this Bitesize Academy module.
I'm Emma Shatliff, manager of the Bupa Academy.
At Bupa we believe in inclusive health and wellbeing that supports everyone to thrive in the workplace.
In today's session, we'll be discussing disability and how line managers can support disabled employees in the workplace.
I'm delighted today to be joined by Dr Naveen Puri, who is a GP and Associate Clinical Director at Bupa.
Let's get started with our first question.
So, with more than 4.
5 million disabled people in work, how important is it that organisations create accessible and inclusive workplaces to help disabled employees thrive at work?
Well, the first thing to say is that organisations really need to encourage diversity inclusivity, because we are essentially the people that make us up, and our own staff will be diverse and have inclusivity needs that we need to meet.
And I think by doing so, we also then recognise the needs of our customers, our stakeholders and people that use our services, too.
One thing we recognise is that diverse and inclusive workforces really make for a happier and productive workforce, which is ultimately the aim of the places that we work in and want to create.
We also recognise that when we have a more diverse workforce, our workforce and the outcomes that they produce are much more relatable for our customers, our clients and the communities within which we operate as well.
I think what's also quite nice to see is that when you have a diverse workforce, you often have a really rich set of perspectives that people bring to the table as well, and problemsolving abilities that perhaps if you had people who all thought the same or looked the same, had wouldn't necessarily be the case.
And then finally, another important consideration that we've certainly found within Bupa is that when you introduce people that have different needs within the skill force, the workforce, rather, you often introduce new skills to the mix as well.
We, for example, now have people who speak fluent British Sign language, which we could not have foreseen when we recruited those individuals, but which has been really helpful to us when we produce new products or new services within the organisation.
So one in three people think disabled people are less productive than nondisabled people.
Why is it so important that line managers recognise and challenge all forms of discrimination?
Yeah, great question.
I think it's really sad that people do perceive disabled people to be less productive, but let's be really honest and frank, I think it's important that people realise one in five people have a disability.
There are what we call invisible and visible disabilities and actually they can affect any number of us.
You probably know somebody in your sphere of work or even your family and friends who has a disability and you just aren't aware of it.
It could be somebody with a newer disability, such as a different way of thinking to you or a different way of interpreting information.
So if you're thinking about a very personal way of relating to disabilities, such as someone you know or somebody you care about, then why would we not put those considerations out there for our people and our workforce as well?
One thing I'll also share is that there are what we call transient disabilities as well.
So some people may be unfortunate to suffer, for example, a stroke, or fall over and hurt their knee and suddenly need a crutch or need a carer to help them feed.
And that may only be temporarily, but actually they will experience what a disabled person perhaps experiences much more regularly and for a longer part of their life.
And so it's important that all of us are mindful that there are many disabilities, both visible and invisible, but there are also those that are transient and temporary versus those that are permanent as well.
Let me introduce you to a term in case you're not familiar with this, which is Ableism.
So I know people often know about racism and sexism and the other isms that we're all sort of very heightened to, and rightly so.
Ableism is where we inadvertently or consciously discriminate it against somebody with a disability.
And it's important that as managers in particular, we're very conscious of this because some of us will harbour these thoughts or opinions, consciously or unconsciously, and it's for us to challenge those and to make sure that our disabled staff are not discriminated against or disadvantaged because of those thoughts.
So what are some of the ways that organisations can create a disability-friendly workplace culture?
Well, there's several things that I would suggest and one is simply to lead by example.
First of all, remember as a manager, people often look to you to take their cue in terms of how to do things, how to approach conversations, how to problem solve.
And if you as a manager are seen to be interested in this space and as a leader are shown to be proactive in this space, I think that can be really advantageous.
So remember, you play an important role in role modelling what you would like your employees to do.
I'd also say speak to your disabled employees too.
Remember, they've had their condition for many years, potentially their entire life, and will often have figured out many ways to work around it, including how to work around it in former workplaces or even other places that they navigate.
So feel free to tap into that.
Remember, it's a real gift for them to share with you the insights they share so you aren't approaching a conversation to help them, which on some level you are actually they're really helping you and your organisation too.
And reframing that in your mind to recognise it's.
A reciprocal give and take, as it were, can be a really positive step.
Also think holistically as well.
What I sometimes do myself is I'll walk through, for example a clinic and consider if I was somebody who was, let's take for example in a wheelchair, how would I approach working in a place like this?
Are there, for example, lifts to get me from one floor to another?
Are there doorways that are wide enough for my wheelchair?
Are there washroom facilities that enable me to manoeuvre my wheelchair and use those facilities as well?
And sometimes by putting yourself in the shoes of somebody you seek to understand, it can be really insightful to consider the blind spots in your organisation.
I'd also say highlight the support available to your members of staff as well.
Sometimes a disabled employee will not necessarily know of the wonderful policies and adjustments you may already have in place.
So show those off and make them aware to your employees that they can utilise those or they can also highlight what the shortcomings are and help you develop them even further.
And then finally, what I'd say is encourage peer to peer support and encourage networks and conversations in the development of a culture where disability and all aspects of inclusivity and diversity are spoken about.
It isn't just a disabled employee, you'll have a perspective, but even your nondisable employees may have experience with disability via their loved ones or people they've worked with previously, or former workplaces.
And so to open conversations and dialogues and to benefit from that collective wisdom can be really helpful as well.
So as a manager there may be times when you need to ask for more information to make workplace adjustments.
So what is the best way to approach conversation about disability?
So what I'd always say is honour the person you're speaking to and recognise that while you want to have the conversation and have your own agenda and motivation for doing so.
Sometimes from their perspective, they may be not a suspicion but a lack of an understanding as to why the conversation is taking place.
Whatever they're going to share with you is potentially very confidential information and the kind of stuff they only tell their doctor or their loved ones, not necessarily their manager.
So be very sensitive to that and invite their contribution, but also signpost the safety around it, such as the confidentiality you apply and why the information is important to you and what you seek to do with it.
I'd also say, frame the conversation in a positive light as well.
Remember, what they're sharing with you is very helpful to you and it will help you, as a manager, develop as well as your organisation involved as well.
It isn't about you simply helping the disabled person, they're also helping you by sharing their perspective and insight with you as well.
I've made the point around confidentiality make sure that that is paramount and understood by the employee and whatever they share is between the four wall that you're speaking within or between the certain people that that conversation needs to go to.
And the last thing I'd say is that some people I've dealt with often find it helpful to bring somebody with them, such as a trusted friend or a colleague or another person that they identify as being someone they would like to have in the room.
It can be quite a big deal to speak to somebody who's a manager or a line manager.
Although you're on their side, you still have a title which may intimidate them.
And so for them to feel comfortable in whichever way you can possibly consider, such as having someone with them, would be an easy win from your perspective as well.
Thank you so much for your time today, Naveen.
I think that's session really, really insightful.
So really appreciate it.