The government has pledged to launch a new consultation that could make disability reporting in the workplace mandatory.
In its new National Disability Strategy published this week, the government said that this year the Cabinet Office will consult on workforce reporting on disability for large employers, "exploring voluntary and mandated workplace transparency, and publish a set of next steps".
The government said "there is increasing interest in making disability reporting mandatory, particularly
for large employers, whilst recognising the challenges facing businesses". It added that "to explore this further, we will seek the views of stakeholders and shape future policy depending on the outcome of that exercise".
The consultation will consider how employers can better understand the profile of their workforce in terms of disability; using a standardised question when asking employees about their disability status; the type of information and data employers could collect and ways to do this in a standardised manner; what information may already be held and cost issues; tools and guidance to help employers report in a consistent and effective way; lessons learned from existing reporting frameworks; ways to maximise take up and employer engagement; what might be reported to government, and whether the government should publish it.
The strategy also states that alongside the consultation, the government will "continue to raise awareness and encourage take up of the Voluntary Reporting Framework, including promoting the business benefits of reporting".
Stuart Finnie, regional director of design at workplace creation experts Unispace, welcomed the government's strategy. He said that 25 per cent of working adults in the UK now identify as having a disability and "there is growing recognition that accessibility is rising up the corporate agenda".
He added: "The release of the government’s National Disability Strategy serves as testament to this holistic approach to accessibility, taking important steps in the right direction towards improving workspaces and reducing the disability employment gap. But not all disabilities are visible, and measures must go beyond being able to access the physical building.
“Organisations must design workspaces and maintain cultures that facilitate individual accessibility needs in the workplace. This can be done through intelligent design solutions, from accessible entries, optimising lighting for productivity and ease of working, managing noise levels and providing adaptable workstations.
"Technology plays a crucial role too. ‘Accessibility Tech’ is big news with personalised, app-based software changing the future landscape of the workplace, while investment in accessibility hardware, such as touchless entry and speech recognition systems, are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in our office spaces. The key to success is making sure that these design considerations work in harmony with the space without looking like an afterthought.”