Despite the Equality Act 2010 legally ensuring equal rights and opportunities for people with learning difficulties and disabilities (LDDs) there is still the issue of perception, or more specifically, how a fear of disclosure could lead to prejudiced treatment and/or discrimination.
This fear of being treated differently, feeling inferior to able bodied colleagues and fellow learners, is deep seated and can often stop apprentices with LDDs from getting the help they are entitled to under law.
Despite negative attitudes changing for the better, and a greater openness for discussion around disability in general, recent research carried out by the disability rights group Radar highlighted the extent of the issue of non-disclosure:
“Three quarters of disabled people working in senior management roles who had the option to conceal their disability still chose to do so”
If even senior management are deciding to conceal LDDs, what does this mean for apprentice learners? And how can apprenticeship providers and employers encourage their apprentice learners to disclose LDDs including mental health conditions?
Dispelling stigma and creating an open atmosphere that encourages disclosure
A powerful tool in the fight against disability stigma is creating an environment primed for open discussion about learning difficulties, disability and mental health conditions. Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly accessible to learners with LDDs which means apprentices with disabilities including mental health conditions are becoming the norm rather than the exception to the rule.
“With 6.9 million disabled people of working age in Britain (19% of the working population) and the majority of people likely to develop some kind of disability in the future, greater openness around disability is a crucial priority in increasing equality and improving working conditions for all.
However, the lack of disclosure often means there are needs which are not being supported, and learners either struggle or fail to complete their apprenticeships. As highlighted in our previous article on Combating Disability Stigma in Education and Work over 30% of apprentices are failing to complete their apprenticeship program. Encouraging disclosure could help to reduce this as support will be put into place from the start of the apprentices’ program.
Letting apprentice learners know that help is available and that there is someone available to listen are vital steps towards dispelling fears around disclosure of LDDs.
Steps to be taken to encourage disclosure and help our apprentice learners succeed
These are just a few simple steps that can be taken by employers and training providers to help encourage apprentice learners disclose LDDs and mental health conditions, and promote a more positive attitude towards disability in the workplace.
Let apprentice learners know their rights under the law, and the support available
The Equality Act 2010 compels employers and training providers to make “reasonable adjustments” for both prospective apprentices and current employees. Providing specialist learning support, and making the right changes to the workplace can mean the difference between an apprentice learner failing and succeeding in their apprenticeship.
Be clear from the beginning
Be open about support available from the start. Let apprentice learners know at open days, exhibits at trade shows and school information days that help is there and accessible. Being upfront in this way encourages openness from the start.
Review the application process
Are the correct forms in place to allow for disclosure of LDDs on apprenticeship application forms? Ensuring any equal opportunities forms are fit for purpose is essential.
Designate a senior member of staff with responsibility for disability equality
Make it obvious that this member of staff is specifically responsible for ensuring apprentice learners with LDDs and mental health conditions are supported. State this on websites and on enrolment forms.
Demonstrate that people with LDDs are involved at all levels of management and governance
People with LDDs can often be trustees and governors, and members of bodies responsible for governance around disability. Make apprentice learners aware of this.
Allow voices to be heard through disabled staff groups, committees and national networks
Developing mechanisms which ensure that the voices of apprentice learners with LDDs are heard is vital. This can be through staff groups, equality committees and national networks to name just a few.
Support apprentice learners with LDDs through mentoring and work shadowing
Providing apprentice learners with mentors who support their needs is hugely beneficial. As is work shadowing where needed and including a disability equality component into existing appraisal schemes.
There is more you can do to promote disclosure of LDDs among apprentice learners
The list above isn’t exhaustive and there is much more that can be done by employers and training providers to promote a culture of openness and full disclosure of LDDs by apprentice learners.
Contact one of our friendly team today and find out how you can help your apprentice learners with LDDs thrive by accessing the learning support they need, thus ensuring they are surrounded by positive attitudes toward learning difficulty and disability.