According to a report released by Boston Consulting Group on May 10, most companies vastly underestimate the number of employees with disabilities, reporting only 4% to 7% on average.
However, 25% of employees worldwide self-identify as having a disability or medical condition that limits a major life activity, according to a survey.
According to the firm, this has serious implications for workplace inclusion and employee experience. “No organization can afford to ignore or misunderstand around a quarter of their workforce,” said Brad Loftus, co-author of the report and a managing director and senior partner at BCG.
“Employers should recognize that their current disclosure data is most likely incomplete, and the true number of people with disabilities in their workplace is much higher than they realize,” he said.
When it comes to workplace inclusion, disabled employees often face numerous challenges.
To begin, physical accessibility can be a significant barrier, with many workplaces lacking proper ramps, elevators, or accessible restrooms. This can limit their mobility and independence, making effective workplace navigation difficult.
Furthermore, attitudes and stereotypes can create a hostile environment in which disabled individuals may face prejudice, misconceptions, or discrimination from their colleagues. Inadequate access to accommodations, such as assistive technologies or flexible work arrangements, can impede their ability to perform tasks or fully participate in team activities.
Lastly, a lack of disability awareness and understanding can lead to exclusion from decision-making processes and opportunities for career advancement.
Inclusion Gap Insights
People with disabilities reported lower levels of inclusion in the workplace compared to their colleagues without disabilities, as well as lower levels compared to other employee groups frequently included in DEI efforts, such as women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, according to a survey of nearly 28,000 employees in 16 countries, including all regions and various industries. According to BCG, lower feelings of inclusion are frequently associated with higher attrition.
Individuals with disabilities were also less likely to report being happy at work and more likely to report that work has a negative impact on their mental and physical well-being, as well as their relationships with friends and family. They are also 1.5 times more likely to have faced discrimination at work than those who do not have a disability or health condition.
Proposed Best Practices
BCG proposed several strategies for employers to promote inclusion and improve the workplace experience for all employees, including those with disabilities. According to the firm, organizations have increased employee happiness and reduced attrition by implementing employee-centric policies, mentorships, and accommodations such as equipment, software, and flexible working arrangements.
“Our data show that organizations can take practical steps to achieve high-impact results, allowing employees with disabilities to be happier, more productive, and motivated at work, as well as more likely to stay on the job,” Loftus said.
According to a recent report, however, inclusion work remains a challenge in many organizations, particularly when senior leaders do not take ownership of DEI initiatives. Further, rather than being reactive, leaders should adopt a proactive approach this year, the report says.
According to another report released on 23 Jan this year, inclusive efforts for workers with disabilities could include a central fund for accommodations, as well as collaboration with workers and vocational rehabilitation professionals.