Talkback Member Working

A Future Full of Opportunity

The pandemic has had a profound effect in the world of employment for people with disabilities. But, as we begin to emerge from over 18 months of pain, Tony Flower reminds us that there are many advantages for UK employers in hiring a person with learning disabilities or autism.

Barriers & Discrimination

A recent survey of 500 employers, conducted by the Leonard Cheshire Charity, found that 40% of hiring managers saw their ability to properly support disabled employees during the pandemic as a barrier, both in the application process and in work.

Perhaps more worryingly, the same survey revealed that 20% of employers were less likely to hire disabled candidates overall. The figures for those in employment in the UK back this up – 53.6% of working-age disabled people are employed, against 81.7% of the general population.

Bearing in mind that it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against jobseekers or employees on the grounds of disability, these are disappointing statistics. But should we be surprised? In reality, we know that discrimination exists, and biased candidate selection in employment is merely an extension of ingrained societal attitudes.

However, things can change. Talkback is at the forefront of challenging preconceptions on disability and work. We want people with a learning disability and/or autism to feel valued and respected in the workplace and to have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Exploring Opportunities

For us education is key and, apart from the fact that any form of discrimination is clearly just wrong, there are so many advantages for companies and organisations that employ people with learning disabilities or autism. Clear evidence exists that the employer can benefit from the following:

  • Retention – employees with learning disabilities and/or autism tend to stay longer and are loyal to the company, hence saving time and money on recruitment.
  • Reduced sickness – averagely, sickness is significantly lower than other staff.
  • Low costs – reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled employees are not expensive. There is funding available, and the adjustments often benefit other employees too.
  • Untapped talent – people on the autistic spectrum often have high levels of accuracy, attention to detail, and a good memory for figures.
  • Boost to morale – their positive and hardworking mindsets can inspire others to go above and beyond.
  • Reflect diversity – creates a workforce that reflects the diverse range of customers within the community.
  • Good public image – puts the company at the forefront in the promotion of Equality and Diversity in the workplace.


There is no doubt that the pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities and has hit disabled people harder in every aspect of their lives. From access to healthcare, and from social mobility to employment.

But surely now is the time to instigate tangible and meaningful change. As we begin to emerge from the lockdowns, Talkback will continue to challenge, enlighten, and inspire to make a real difference. And, in partnership with a growing number of employers, the future can be full of opportunity.

If you’re an employer and you’d like to understand more about how hiring a person with a learning disability or autism can benefit your organisation, then please get in touch.

You can read more about our Supported Employment programmes here

Written by Tony Flower