Marie Sandler, HR Director here at DDC OS UK, talks us through the great news that she has been awarded the disability confident leader award…


I recently attended a roundtable event run by the Disability Inclusion Team in partnership with ENEI (Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion) discussing line manager disability confidence. I was invited to attend the event having recently won a Disability Confident Leader award. 

This recognised accreditation is for organisations who fully cover the components of the Disability Confident employer assessment by the DWP and their independent assessors and where the validation and commitment within the organisation can be attributed to a single Senior Leader.

I was really pleased to be given the award as it reflects all the hard work and commitment in creating an inclusive work environment. But I also acknowledge that whilst I have the opportunity to set strategic visions, and influence culture for inclusion and diversity within DDC OS, it is much more of a unified effort and a reflection of the values and practice that we set for our business, the leaders that deliver this, and our inclusive and diverse workforce that make our business what it is.

There is talk of a “glass-door” –  a synonym of the glass ceiling that exists in relation to gender-related issues – where women are perceived to only reach a certain level in organisations before being limited by the “glass ceiling”. This “glass-door” is applied to disabled individuals where there is little or no opportunity for them to even get into an organisation to showcase their talents!

UK statistics showed that 13.3 million people have a life-limiting condition under the definition of the Equality Act.  35% are in employment, as opposed to the 86% of people without a disability.  Without labelling and providing statistics that do not demonstrate the stories behind our colleagues, we have 18% of our workforce that are registered as having a Disability. Ranging from colleagues using wheelchairs and mobility aids to move around, colleagues with underlying medical conditions such as cerebral palsy, fibromyalgia or those with Asperger’s or other autistic spectrum conditions.

I was asked to share my views on what helps DDC OS be Disability Confident, and I explained how supportive and disability confident line management is a key priority for disabled colleagues. I encouraged line managers to complete the new disability confident learning. But it’s not just for line managers of disabled colleagues. All line managers can benefit from being disability confident.

Disability confidence is about demonstrating core leadership skills and behaviours that are equally applicable to managing non-disabled colleagues.

I would like to highlight three key leadership behaviours;

Firstly, a disability confident manager demonstrates and champions inclusion. They will reflect on their leadership style and working practices to ensure that these are fully inclusive of everyone. They will be approachable and comfortable in initiating open, honest and sensitive conversations. And they will have no preconceptions about the abilities of disabled staff, offering them stretching work, career development moves, and putting them forward for promotion and talent programmes in the same way as their peers. Disability confident managers will apply inclusive principles to change management, considering the impact of proposed organisational changes – such as the introduction of new IT/working practices – on disabled colleagues. They are widely recognised as role models and champions of inclusion, challenging inappropriate behaviour towards colleagues, including tackling bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Secondly, disability confident managers understand that sometimes, to create a level playing field, you have to treat people differently and to consider the need for individual workplace adjustments. They will know where to access advice about identifying, implementing and reviewing workplace adjustments to enable disabled employees to work effectively and realise their full potential. And they will offer to document approved adjustments on a workplace adjustment passport, to enable seamless retention on a change of line manager/job role, or to move between departments, agencies and external organisations.

Thirdly, they will be competent and knowledgeable in attendance management and in supporting staff to return to work. They will identify and act on signs or triggers that may prevent extended sick leave and know how to distinguish between disability-related absence and sickness absence.

In summary, to be a disability confident manager you should demonstrate the following basic three Cs of disability confidence:

  • Champion Inclusion
  • Consider Adjustments
  • Complete Attendance Management

I am really proud to lead DDC OS into Disability Confident Employer status and it is great that our employees see the benefit of this. When considering her application for a new position Emma Jackson, Quality Analyst in our BPO team asked about reasonable adjustments due to her underlying medical condition. We spoke about what options we have and suggestions of mutual solutions in order to make the situation work. Emma’s response really resonated with me that we are breaking down the stigma of disability in the workplace:

“It is reassuring to know that the company is trying to accommodate in every way possible for people with disabilities. Sadly, too many places don`t and people with disabilities are undervalued and pushed aside”