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mcdonaldsONE in four of UK employers feel not all their colleagues would be happy working with somebody with a learning disability.

A new report from Mencap, published to launch Learning Disability Work Experience Week, reveals the barriers that need to be tackled if the Government are to halve the disability employment gap.

Mark Capper, head of employment at Mencap, said: “This survey exposes the nervousness some employers have when it comes to learning disability, but also how these nerves disappear for those that have employed staff with a learning disability.

“The fact that almost 80% felt that having a disabled employee helps a company understand its disabled customers better present a huge commercial benefit to organisations

“People with a learning disability represent an untapped source of labour constantly overlooked. With the Government’s desire to halve the disability employment gap there needs to be a far greater emphasis on how to remove the many barriers that exist for job seekers with a learning disability, and we hope the employers involved in Learning Disability Work Experience Week can convince others to think differently about who they look to for staff.”

The survey of over 60 UK employers showed that:

  • Only 16% of respondents felt the Government would be successful in halving the disability employment gap.
  • 23% of employers feel not all their colleagues would be happy working with somebody with a learning disability.
  • 79% agreed having disabled employees helps a company understand its disabled customers better.
  • Almost half (45%) of representatives who have not employed somebody with a learning disability were concerned it might be more difficult for members of public to deal with members of staff with a learning disability. This drops to 30% who have employed staff with a learning disability.
  • There are just 7% of people with a learning disability in paid employment, compared to 46% of disabled people.

Mencap are concerned that with changes to the benefits system, including a cut of £30 a week to cut ESA WRAG which half of disabled people say would mean they return to work later, the Government will fail to increase employment opportunities for people with a learning disability.

Learning Disability Work Experience Week was launched by Mencap and Inclusive Employers two years ago to encourage employers to adopt more inclusive recruitment policies.

Employers ranging from McDonald’s, the House of Commons, South West Trains, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Sainsbury’s have all been involved in the scheme.