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Evenbreak: Run by and for disabled people

Evenbreak only employs disabled people. Jane Hatton, Director, shares her insight into being an inclusive business.

Why was it important to you to sign the #WorkWithMe pledge?

Evenbreak is a social enterprise run by and for disabled people. Our core service is a specialist job board, and we also offer a range of services to help employers become more disability-friendly. We are challenging negative stereotypes of disabled people, and helping employers view us as a valuable source of talent. Our mission is for the world of work to be an inclusive and accessible place where disabled people can thrive and contribute our skills. So the ethos behind the #WorkWithMe campaign very much aligned with our vision and values.

What have you learnt from being an inclusive business?

As a social firm, we only employ disabled people (why wouldn’t we? There is so much talent out there going to waste!). However, inclusion is much wider than disability alone, and we are keen on intersectionality. Our team is diverse in terms of different impairments, of course, and also in terms of ethnicity, gender, age and sexual orientation. For me, the two greatest and most exciting lessons are firstly that talent comes in all shapes and sizes, and secondly that the more diverse the team, the greater the resilience and growth opportunities for the organisation.

Our candidates – all disabled people looking for new or better jobs – say they value the authenticity that our own lived experiences give us. By definition, disabled people have to find ways round the barriers that disabled us – whether inaccessible buildings or transport, or discriminatory policies or processes, or lack of access to information or opportunities. This takes determination, creativity and fantastic problem-solving skills. All qualities which are crucial to an organisation’s resilience and ability to adapt and grow.

Through reflecting the people we support, we understand the barriers many people face in the world of employment, and can authentically and effectively help employers to reduce or eliminate those barriers.

What challenges have you faced?

Our challenges turned out to be our strengths. Employing people with such a wide range of access needs meant having to find very flexible ways of working. We all work flexibly from home. Each person works the number of hours that suits them, and at times that suit them. For example, Lewis can only work a few hours a week due to fatigue from severe M.E. So he works for twenty minutes or half an hour at a time, around his condition. Some days he might not work at all, and others he might do two stints of twenty minutes. From the employer perspective, as long as the work gets done to a good standard (and it always does!), it doesn’t matter when it happens. And it means that he rarely has time off sick, because he works around his condition. The same principle applies to all of the team.

The need to be flexible, including working from home, means that we don’t have to restrict ourselves to talent that lives within a certain distance of an office. Our team live all over the UK. And we don’t have to worry about having an accessible office, with accessible parking and accessible transport. The motive was to be inclusive to disabled employees, and the outcome was a system that benefits everyone!

What are the most important factors that make an inclusive business?

Being inclusive means that a business can access many strengths to build on. Aligning what the business needs with what its people need is key. Seeing each employee as a valuable asset means that you can build on their talents and strengths, which are often unexpected! For example, it turns out that Kiana, our Candidate Engagement Manager, is brilliant at producing films. Not something we had really done much of previously. But our reach has grown exponentially through the use of video and social media. Being flexible, identifying strengths and removing barriers are vital.

What advice would you give to other members of the #WorkWithMe community who are just starting out?

Change the way you see disabled people. Instead of feeling sorry for us and thinking you could help us, think of us as untapped and motivated talent that you can benefit from. Don’t be afraid to do things differently – recruitment, training, communication, engaging with customers – there are always opportunities to improve performance, and inclusion is a great starting point.

What would you like to gain from joining #WorkWithMe?

I hope we can learn from others, and share what we have learned and are still learning in our journey. Sharing best practice will help us all grow and develop.