Employer disability practice in Britain: assessing the impact of the Positive About Disabled People 'Two Ticks' symbolWork, Employment & Society


K. Hoque, N. Bacon, D. Parr
Sociology and Political Science / Economics and Econometrics / Accounting / Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


Work, employment and society 2014, Vol. 28(3) 430 –451 © The Author(s) 2014

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DOI: 10.1177/0950017012472757 wes.sagepub.com

Employer disability practice in

Britain: assessing the impact of the Positive About Disabled

People ‘Two Ticks’ symbol

Kim Hoque

Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, UK

Nick Bacon

Cass Business School, City University London, UK

Dave Parr

East Riding College, UK


This article assesses the extent to which employers displaying the Positive About Disabled People ‘Two Ticks’ symbol adhere to the five commitments they are expected to uphold and whether adherence to these commitments is greater in Two Ticks than non-Two Ticks workplaces. It also assesses levels of employer support for and dialogue with Disability Champions in Two Ticks workplaces. These issues are explored in the public and private sectors separately. The analysis finds only limited adherence to the five commitments in Two Ticks workplaces, no consistent evidence that adherence is higher in Two Ticks than non-Two Ticks workplaces and limited evidence of support for and dialogue with Disability Champions in Two Ticks workplaces. It also finds little evidence of variation between public and private sector workplaces.

Keywords disability, Disability Champions, equal opportunities, trade unions, Two Ticks symbol


The labour market disadvantage experienced by disabled people has been an issue of longstanding public concern. Sociological accounts have attributed this disadvantage in

Corresponding author:

Kim Hoque, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK.

Email: kim.hoque@wbs.ac.uk 472757WES0010.1177/0950017012472757Work, employment and societyHoque et al. 2014

Article at Bobst Library, New York University on April 18, 2015wes.sagepub.comDownloaded from

Hoque et al. 431 part to employer ignorance of the capabilities disabled people possess and an unwillingness to accommodate their needs (Berthoud, 2008). Attempts have been made in Britain to address these problems by providing additional employment rights for disabled people within the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and 2005, and since 2006 by placing responsibilities on public sector organizations to promote disability equality (Barnes and

Mercer, 2005; Conley, 2012; Foster, 2007). Arguably, these recent legal changes represent an important (if limited) move away from a medical model of disability whereby the disability the person suffers is viewed as limiting the tasks they can perform, towards a social model of disability whereby the responsibility lies with organizations to adapt in order to facilitate the employment of disabled people (Barnes and Mercer, 2005).

These legislative changes appear, however, to have had only a limited impact in terms of reducing persistent disability disadvantage in the British labour market. Disabled people remain almost twice as likely to be unemployed (Berthoud, 2008; Riddell et al., 2010) and the Labour Force Survey (January-March 2012) estimates the employment rate for disabled people and those with long term health problems to be 51 per cent compared with 77 per cent for the non-disabled (ONS, 2012). The disabled are also overrepresented in low skilled and low status jobs (Goldstone and Meager, 2002; Riddell et al., 2010) and they continue to experience disadvantage in career progression and access to training opportunities (Jones, 2008; Meager and Higgins, 2011). In addition, they are paid significantly less (Jones, 2008), with the pay gap between disabled and non-disabled employees estimated at slightly less than a pound an hour (Riddell et al., 2010).

The limited impact of recent legislative change is also reflected in the continued paucity of disability practices within British workplaces. Almost a decade after the

Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey found that only 23 per cent of workplaces monitored recruitment and selection and 9 per cent monitored promotions by disability, while only 19 per cent reviewed recruitment and selection procedures, 10 per cent reviewed promotion procedures and 4 per cent reviewed relative pay rates by disability (Kersley et al., 2006). There is also evidence of continued employer reluctance to engage in dialogue on disability equality with stakeholders, with only a minority of public sector organizations having introduced arrangements to consult disabled employees prior to the introduction of the

Disability Equality Duty (Godwin, 2006). In addition, Woodhams and Corby (2007) argue that while the Disability Discrimination Act resulted in some increase in the prevalence of disability practices aimed at ensuring greater procedural justice, the abolition of the quota system within the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act (1944) which required 3 per cent of jobs in organizations with 20 or more employees to be filled by registered disabled people resulted in a decline in the use of more radical disability practices such as reserved jobs, work introduction schemes and special external recruitment events for disabled people.

It would appear, therefore, that further steps may be necessary to encourage employers to implement the sort of equality practices that might help reduce disability disadvantage in the labour market. One such step, which might be deemed consistent with Britain’s largely neo-liberal approach to equality, involves encouraging employers to sign up to voluntary standards and make commitments to introduce changes to promote greater equality. A range of such standards exists in both non-disability related areas (Opportunity at Bobst Library, New York University on April 18, 2015wes.sagepub.comDownloaded from 432 Work, employment and society 28(3)

Now, Race for Opportunity, Stonewall Diversity Champions and Top Employers for

Working Families, for example) and in relation to disability equality (the Positive About