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14 NOV 2019

Removing barriers to employment

Disability Confident is a government scheme designed to remove barriers to employment by encouraging and supporting employers in recruiting and retaining disabled people and those with health conditions.

Savills are reaping the benefits of adopting the new initiative, as we find out in this interview with Fiona Sullivan, a surveyor at the global real estate company, who explains more about the advantages for both the business and all employees.

What prompted Savills to undertake Disability Confident?

Whilst researching the Equality Act and what disability actually means to individuals in all aspects of their work life, we came across the Disability Confident Scheme (DCS). We wanted to ensure that, as a business, we are providing a level of support to staff and clients with any aspect of disability that goes beyond the basics.

The DCS provided a framework with different levelling systems that would allow us to gain a deeper understanding of how we could do more to proactively support staff and implement initiatives that would ensure this continues in the long term.

What benefits has this provided to the business and ALL employees?

By using the scheme to look at our current workplace, we have been able to identify areas that we can improve in order to provide stronger support for existing and new staff with discernible and hidden disabilities as well as those who are neurodiverse.

Communication across the business in various forms including events has been fundamental in educating staff on the different types of disability, challenging attitudes and demonstrating the assistance available to them.

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Disabled man in wheelchair
Disability Confident aims to support companies in their recruitment of employees with disability and debilitating health conditions

Our commitment to deliver and implement a relevant and considered DCS strategy across the firm has been supported at all levels across the business, which has helped to ingrain it into our culture.

What have you found challenging about the process?

Great time and effort has gone into ensuring that some fundamental areas in the business have changed in order for us to be Disability Confident. Part of the challenge is infiltrating the message that this was not an easy 'tick box exercise'. It is a full commitment and dedication from the business that didn't just stop at the first DCS level, but developed our support strategy further to go above and beyond.

Fiona Sullivan
Savills surveyor Fiona Sullivan firmly believes that the Disability Confident Scheme has created an open and supportive environment for employees with discernible and hidden disabilities

How has the culture of your organisation changed since you achieved Disability Confident?

Through the DCS process we hope to have helped create a more open environment where individuals are encouraged to feel confident and comfortable in coming forward if they need support.

It was important to us when we were going through the assessment points for each level in the DCS that we not only met the criteria, but excelled them to ensure that we are giving our staff the best possible support.

It is an ever-evolving process rather than an overnight change. We have now set the foundations that we can continue to build upon and are very much looking forward to developing and progressing it further.

What are the next steps for Savills?

In terms of the next steps for our DCS accreditation, having recently achieved Level 2, we are now working hard towards becoming a DCS level 3 Leader. We are also keen to work with more charities in the disability arena to provide a wider support network and education for our staff and clients.

Demonstrating that we are a disability confident business aligns with our overarching dedication to diversity and inclusion within the business and the wider real estate industry.

"Our commitment to deliver and implement a relevant and considered DCS strategy across the firm has been supported at all levels across the business, which has helped to ingrain it into our culture"

Fiona Sullivan
Surveyor, Savills

What advice would you give to other firms if they are considering Disability Confident?

Our continued journey with the DCS has provided a very welcome insight into the complexities surrounding visible and hidden disabilities and it is important that the real estate industry as a whole unites to create a supportive and understanding environment in which everyone can thrive.

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