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Access remains a key barrier in creating a diverse workforce

People with physical and mental disabilities still face significant barriers within the workplace, according to a new SME Diversity Survey commissioned by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The YouGov survey of senior British SME decision-makers found that a lack of appropriate access was viewed as the primary barrier to increasing diversity (31 per cent), followed by by the lack of availability of diverse candidates (19 per cent).

Just under half (45 per cent) described their workplace as “difficult” for disabled people, with one in 10 noting the lack of diversity in business models. Eighteen per cent said disabled people were not supported at all.

Founder of Disabled People in Construction and senior quantity surveyor at Beard Construction Kevin Millin, who has been disabled for the last 10 years, commented:

“While I’ve been fortunate to work for a supporting and accommodating company, I’m acutely aware of the challenges people with disabilities face in the workplace. Of course, there are the practical challenges but the message that people with disabilities can prosper within the construction and property industry needs to be louder to change attitudes. Small but significant changes must be made if we want to better utilise this largely untapped talent pool.”

Additionally, almost a quarter of respondents (23 per cent) said that a pay gap still exists between men and women in SMEs while 20 per cent agreed that SMEs cannot afford to invest in diversity, with a similar number (19 per cent) agreeing that providing flexible working arrangements can prove costly.

Lucile Kamar, RICS equalities manager, said:

“Having a diverse workforce is vital for future-proofing the property and construction industry. We have to ensure that our profession is relevant and fit for the future and one of the ways to ensure this is to make the workplace as accessible as possible so that we can reach out to and retain a diverse talent pool. The results of this survey show that there is still much to do in terms of breaking down barriers, altering perceptions and addressing the lack of support in some workplaces for those with disabilities.”

While 48 per cent agreed with the statement that “some industries are not suitable for disabled people”, a third felt that there were no barriers to increasing diversity in their workplace.

About Sarah OBeirne


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