Recruiting members of disadvantaged groups
The latest Focus from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development looks at Disadvantaged Groups in the Labour Market and there’s a mix of good and bad news for the government. On the one hand, employers’ attitudes to members of groups usually thought of as having extra employment barriers have improved significantly. On the other, there’s still a great deal of resistance and it doesn’t look as though there’s much the government can do to overcome it.
This report – based on a survey of CIPD members – covers territory they last visited in 2005. Back then, I was particularly struck by one finding that I have referred to several times since: in recruitment, a third of CIPD members excluded people with a history of long-term sickness or incapacity, even though such a policy was probably outlawed by the Disability Discrimination Act.
Five years on, there is a huge improvement: just 2 per cent say they exclude or are likely to exclude disabled people. Not exactly the same question, but this figure does suggest a massive improvement, especially as 55 per cent said they had actually employed disabled people in the past three years and those who had done so said that they found disabled workers to be more loyal than other workers (+26), to have better customer service (+9) and a higher quality of work (+4).
Looking at disadvantaged groups generally, the proportion saying they excluded any of them from recruitment stood at 32 per cent. This is the figure that raises a glass half full/half empty question. On the one hand, this is down from 62 per cent five years ago. On the other, it’s still a very large number, and many employers are still unpersuaded about some groups:
- Just 23 per cent had employed people aged 18 or under with few or no qualifications.
- 21 per cent had employed people with a history of long-term unemployment.
- 16 per cent had employed people aged 65 or over.
- 12 per cent had employed ex offenders.
The key issues are experience, skills and qualifications. When those who excluded any groups were asked for their reason these three were by far the most important:
- 36 per cent quoted lack of relevant qualifications,
- 29 per cent lack of experience,
- 29 per cent lack of basic skills,
- 17 per cent trust,
- 13 per cent reliability,
- 12 per cent bad experience,
- 7 per cent risk of disruption,
- 51 per cent other.
The CIPD puts the survey results in the context of the government’s new welfare-to-work policy, noting that employer attitudes are very important to unemployed people’s employment prospects. The government has abolished the Future Jobs Fund, which aimed to give young unemployed people the experience and skills highlighted in this survey, so there will be important questions about the implications for the Work Programme.
The authors note that 9 per cent of respondents felt “that more support from the private and voluntary sector would improve the employability of these groups.” But, generally speaking, the answers to the question on ‘what factor or government policy would be most likely to make you employ’ members of disadvantaged groups are the most depressing in the survey. 66 per cent of the respondents couldn’t suggest a policy or programme that would change their behaviour. The most popular suggested policy is a six month internship, with the government paying half the wage.
Employment policy is going to have to pay more attention to qualifications, skills and experience. Employers are saying that this is far more important than a subsidy or other direct government incentives. I am convinced that job guarantees – provided they are carefully designed – remain the best hope of giving people without jobs the experience they aren’t going to get any other way. Perhaps Work Programme contractors will use the flexibility of the new scheme to offer their most disadvantaged clients a chance at real jobs.