The professional body’s chief executive emphasises that ‘businesses cannot survive if they ignore sections of society’

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) has partnered with disability equality charity Scope to galvanise the insurance industry to do more to recruit, retain and support disabled employees.

The professional body has teamed up with Scope to publish a new report, ’Achieving an inclusive working environment for disabled people.’ This found that employers in the insurance sector need to collect and publish their workforces’ disability data to identify how many staff describe themselves as disabled and to compare experiences between these individuals.

The report offers advice on how to collect this data, what information should be gathered and provides ways to support the career progression of disabled staff members.

Sian Fisher, chief executive at the CII, said: “Hurdles which prevent people with disabilities from securing work, succeeding in work or even having access to things often taken for granted, such as affordable insurance premiums for travel, need to be found and replaced with the right culture of support.

“There is no shame in facing up to any current shortfall in meeting the needs of employees, particularly those with disabilities, as long as this is followed up by action to do better.

“Businesses cannot survive if they ignore sections of society, whether it is in their employment practices or within their potential customer pool. We want our profession, a mature and innovative market of ideas, to be held up as a standard for others to follow.”

Partnership goals

CII has partnered with Scope in order to develop guidance on how insurance organisations can develop diverse and inclusive working environments for those with disabilities.

Scope noted that although many firms do collect disability data for their workforces, few publish this information, use it to understand where disabled employees face barriers at work, or use this evidence to inform plans to become a more inclusive business.

The charity said that publicly reporting disability data signals to disabled people that the insurance profession is committed to creating inclusive workplaces.

Johnny Timpson, disability champion at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), added: “I fully support and look forward to working with the Chartered Insurance Institute and Scope on this collaborative initiative to make the insurance industry and profession a career destination of choice for people with disabilities, seen and/or unseen.

“What better way to understand the needs of disabled consumers and all customers at moments of vulnerability than by employing colleagues with a disability - be it seen or unseen?”

Best practice

One insurer that is leading the sector in terms of disability inclusion is AXA UK; the firm announced this week that it has achieved the highest level of recognition from the Disability Confident (DC) scheme, which is supported by the DWP.

The DC programme is a voluntary initiative, developed by employers and disabled people’s representatives; it encourages organisations to improve how they recruit, retain and develop individuals with disabilities.

Participating employers can work towards attaining one of three levels: Disability Confident Committed Employer, Disability Confident Employer and Disability Confident Leader.

To reach the highest Disability Confident Leader level, like AXA UK, firms must demonstrate previous commitments around recruitment, adjustments and support as well as ensure to employ people with disabilities, report on disability, mental health and wellbeing and act as a Disability Confident champion within local and business communities.

Celebrating diversity

AXA UK confirmed its Disability Confident Leader status yesterday, in conjunction with the International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPWD), a United Nations (UN) initiative.

To highlight IDPWD, AXA UK held a lunchtime event in London featuring Emma Case, founder of Women Beyond The Box, Marianne White, director of The Valuable 500 campaign, professional speaker Steven Dowd and Paul Dockerty, wellbeing consultant at AXA UK. The firm further held a webinar on neurodiversity in the afternoon.

Mark Howes, chief operating officer at AXA PPP healthcare and executive sponsor of the Able Employee Resource Group, said: “We are thrilled to have achieved the top level of recognition in the Disability Confident scheme for employers. It shows how committed we are to recruiting from the widest possible pool of talent – and retaining that talent.

“This diversity is crucial to better compete in our chosen markets. But it is far more than this: being a Disability Confident Leader really shows us living our values and embracing inclusion. By building a diverse workforce that reflects our customers, we can better serve them. This official accolade says we are a business that cares.”

A spokesperson at the ABI added: “Having recently become a Disability Confident Employer, more initiatives to improve inclusion of all types across the insurance and long-term savings industry will help bring about change. There is still a way to go, but we are proud of the efforts of our members to make their workplaces more welcoming to people with disabilities.”