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Sensemaker: FTSE silent on disability

Tuesday 18 May 2021

What just happened


Long stories short

  • The US expressed support for an Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire but blocked a UN Security Council statement condemning the violence for the third time in a week.
  • Cyclone Tauktae hit southern India, killing at least 20 and leaving nearly 100 missing on an ocean barge.
  • Prince Harry called the First Amendment to the US constitution, as he understood it, “bonkers”.

FTSE silent on disability.

People with disabilities make up 20 per cent of the working age population, but not a single senior manager or board-level executive at a FTSE 100 company disclosed a disability in 2020, Tortoise research shows.

Britain’s biggest companies are much less likely to report on disability compared with ethnic diversity in their workforce, and most companies offer little but warm words as a solution. The findings will do little to bolster faith in diversity in the FTSE 100, which lost its only black CEO when Carnival Cruises dropped out of the index three months ago.

Our research, conducted with the Valuable 500 group of companies, showed the need for business leaders “to get involved in reporting on disability, supporting their colleagues and celebrating disabled consumers and employees,” said Mohamed Kebbay, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at LandSec, which has undertaken some of the most comprehensive disability reporting in the FTSE 100.

Part of the explanation for other companies’ failure to report may lie in privacy concerns or a lingering stigma felt by those with disabilities:

  • Even though no senior figures disclosed a disability, some “Prefer Not To Say” or “Did not Disclose”.
  • So there may be executives with disabilities in the FTSE 100 – but if so they are not visible. 

Mandatory disability reporting would be one way to make the true picture of disability representation clear. Companies must currently report the number of women they employ, but not the number of disabled people.

  • As a result, only 12 FTSE 100 companies report on the number of employees who have disclosed a disability. 
  • The average reported representation within those companies is 3.2 per cent.
  • 36 of the 100 companies gave further information about their initiatives and representation. The rest declined to comment. 

In March, a collective of business bosses from companies including the Post Office, PageGroup and Schroders urged Number Ten to make reporting of disability representation mandatory, as it is for gender diversity. 

The British Association for Supported Employment (BASE), a leader on employment support for disabled people, also recommends that reporting of disability employment rates and pay gaps be mandatory, along with more rigorous management of the Department for Work and Pensions’ Disability Confident scheme, which supports employers making the most of employees’ talents.

But even if reporting was required, people have good reasons not to report disabilities to their employers. 

  • Workers worry that disclosing a disability will lead to differential treatment, compromise their chances of advancement or otherwise harm their profile within the company.
  • Disability Rights UK, a charity, says more than 2000 disability discrimination cases were received at employment tribunals between October and December 2020.
  • 20 FTSE 100 companies make it clear they’ve given employees the opportunity to disclose a disability, but many employees feel there’s still a stigma surrounding disability that makes reporting difficult. 
  • Disability is also a catch-all term that obscures a range of different needs, challenges and behaviours.

But there are benefits when people do disclose.

Companies could do more to help disabled people feel comfortable disclosing.

  • Only five have published diversity and inclusion statements on disability. Most make generic statements in which disability is a third order concern behind gender and ethnicity.
  • Just over a third of companies have created employee resource groups to support the “success” of employees who are disabled; many of these have sprung up in the last 12 months.

Neurodiverse or otherwise disabled people also face challenges in getting hired in the first place. Employment rates for disabled people are at 52 per cent, compared with the national rate of 81 per cent. People with conditions such as autism, epilepsy, learning difficulties and mental illnesses are among those least likely to be in work.

Company websites and hiring processes can be inaccessible to people with different needs and behaviours, making it difficult for them to learn about jobs that might suit them.

  • 71 per cent of the FTSE 100 state that their websites comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for accessibility, meaning that they have taken steps to ensure that people with a variety of disabilities can still use their sites. 
  • Others “aim to comply” and ensure compliance “where possible”, which is little consolation to people unable to make use of their sites due to low text contrast. 

The government has promised a National Strategy for Disabled People to strengthen policy and support disabled people in “participating fully in society”, including work. Four disabled people have since launched legal action against the government, claiming the survey issued to gather responses from disabled people was designed to stop them responding properly, with mainly multiple choice questions and only three opportunities to provide short text answers. Ministers have also quietly adjusted the publication date of the review from “Spring 2021” to sometime “this year”. 

The Disability 100 Report is part of Tortoise’s wider investigation investigation of the FTSE 100’s actions and commitments when it comes to key responsibilities. You can read the full research report here.


Wealth investment, fairness, prosperity

Bill Gates’ behaviour
First we learned his wife was divorcing him. That was on 4 May. Then we were reminded of his association with the billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Then of the annual weekends he spends with an ex. Then of questionable behaviour around Microsoft employees who caught his eye – apparently an open secret at the firm for years. And now of an affair with one of them six years after his marriage to Melinda French Gates. This stuff chips away at the carefully-constructed persona of a global philanthropist on a mission to eradicate disease. Or at least makes it look more complicated and much less squeaky clean. It’s almost as if Gates didn’t think much about how it would all look if drip-fed to the press by a high-powered legal team, or didn’t care.


Belonging identity, society, beliefs, countries

Russia’s C speaks
Steve Rosenberg, the BBC’s peerless Moscow correspondent, has snagged a world exclusive interview with the very presentable head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, the SVR. The chief’s name is Sergei Naryshkin and he denies point-blank that Russia was behind the SolarWinds hack, which US intelligence called the most sophisticated ever aimed American computer networks. He would, wouldn’t he. Lying is a spy’s main job. What’s more interesting is the fact of the interview, and the jovial tone when it moved on to rekindled relations between the SVR and MI6. There’s no such thing as a charm offensive without a purpose. Has the Kremlin tired of being on the outs with foggy Albion? Is now the time to talk about Sergei Skripal?


New things technology, science, engineering

Online help
Healios is a UK-based online mental health start-up that has just completed a £7 million fundraising round. It claims to have apps that can a) help children struggling with mental health issues as a result of the pandemic and b) help fill the void left by inadequate NHS  funding for in-person child mental healthcare. Not at all sure about this kind of thing. Don’t real people with real problems need real people with real solutions?


The 100-year life health, education, living, public poliCY

The joy of travel
150 flights left UK airports yesterday for destinations in amber-listed countries to which the health secretary had said the previous day no British tourists should be going. Travellers heading out reported spending three hours in queues in close proximity to passengers arriving from red-listed India. Those going to amber-listed countries will have to quarantine on their return. Will they bother? And why, on a crunch day for the UK Border Force – its first in months – were only 10 of 35 desks staffed in one Heathrow arrivals hall? A successful vaccination campaign is all very well, but this is madness.


Our planet environment, natural resources, geopolitics

IEA goes full net zero
The International Energy Agency, set up in the 1970s to ensure a smooth supply of oil to the world’s industrial economies, now says oil and gas firms need to halt all new oil and gas exploration if they are to play their part in a global shift to net zero emissions by mid-century. The IEA’s big net zero report, published today, also says coal consumption needs to fall by 90 per cent by 2050, gas consumption by 75 per cent, and that $5 trillion a year needs to be found to invest in low carbon alternatives. That’s more than double current spending. The IEA is hereby invited to join Tortoise’s Accelerating Net Zero coalition, which also launches today.

Thanks for reading – and please share this around.

Ellen Halliday
@Ellen_Halliday

Luke Gbedemah
@LukeGbedemah

Photographs by Getty Images


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