Making invisible disabilities more visible at Sodexo

Written by
Meg Horsburgh

09 Feb 2018

09 Feb 2018 • by Meg Horsburgh

Sodexo’s head of diversity and inclusion for the UK and Ireland, Meg Horsburgh, outlines what the company is doing to promote disability inclusion.

Tommy does not have much chance of getting a job. 

It is not his attitude or his willingness to work that is an issue. Tommy’s friendly, positive and wants to get a job. Tommy also has a learning difficulty.

According to research, even though 68% of people with a learning difficulty want to work, only 5% will find gainful employment.

Developing employability skills

As a large employer providing support services to clients, Sodexo is in an excellent position to help people like Tommy gain vital employability skills at our sites.

One example of our partnerships is with our client Johnson & Johnson and Ways into Work, an award winning supported employment community interest company.

Two pupils from Manor Green School, an education centre for young people with special educational needs, are now taking sponsored internships with Sodexo at the Johnson & Johnson site in Maidenhead.

They work three days a week in the kitchen, restaurant and mailroom.
The employability skills they will gain through the programme will provide them with a much better chance of securing employment in the future.
This programme is just one example of Sodexo’s wider strategy to support people with disabilities. We have long-term commitments in place both globally and locally.

Promoting inclusion

Globally we have signed up to the International Labour Organisation Business Disability Network and signed up to their 10 principles promoting disability inclusion in the workplace. This supports our pledge that by 2025, 100% of our global workforce will have access to programmes for people with disabilities. 

In the UK and Ireland, we have a disability taskforce made up of colleagues from HR, communications, supply management and operations who are committed to making our organisation as disability confident as possible.

To mark International Day for Persons with Disabilities in 2017, we ran a campaign designed to make invisible disabilities more visible.

Colleagues shared their personal stories of conditions such as dyslexia, depression and chronic fatigue through posters, case studies and on an awareness raising webinar.

We also heard from people with family members with disabilities and from our teams committed to ensuring disability inclusion for their customers and clients. 

We have signed up to the UK Government’s Disability Confident campaign and collaborate with the Business Disability Forum and the Employers Network for Equality Inclusion, as well as many disabled peoples organisations who help us match people with disabilities to roles in the business.

Wider team experience

Not only do our partnerships help people with disabilities to find employment, we also find them to be a tremendously positive experience for our non-disabled colleagues who get to see things from a different perspective, and to contribute to the communities where they live and work.

The knock-on effects include an increase in employee engagement, improved team communications and sense of team spirit.

Being a large employer, we have the commitments, HR processes and policies in place to support these activities, but the best stories come from our sites, where the warm welcome from our teams, help people with disabilities, people like Tommy, to feel part of our Sodexo family. 

And that experience is what will vastly improve Tommy’s chances of bringing his enthusiasm and productivity permanently into the workplace.