This programme has sparked much debate over how meaningful the commitments are and the perceived lack of effective enforcement of the rules of the scheme. Pressures from various sources seem to have resulted in improved guidance being given now to employers on just what they have signed up to do.
To be permitted to use the symbol, employers have to agree to deliver on 5 main commitments. Further information is available from the Jobcentre Plus website.
To interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for a job vacancy and consider them on their abilities.
To ensure there is a mechanism in place to discuss, at any time, but at least once a year, with disabled employees what they can do to make sure they can develop and use their abilities.
To make every effort when employees become disabled to make sure they stay in employment.
To take action to ensure that all employees develop the appropriate level of disability awareness needed to make your commitments work.
Each year, to review the five commitments and what has been achieved, to plan ways to improve on them and let employees and Jobcentre Plus know about progress and future plans.
It is usually the first commitment that sparks the most controversy - and where reps may be approached to become involved. Jobcentre Plus state that the following actions are essential, in relation to the first commitment:
"This commitment applies to all vacancies, internal and external, without exception. Ensure minimum criteria are available to disabled applicants and, in the job advert / specification, make applicants aware of where they can access this information. When sifting applications to reduce interview numbers any disabled applicant meeting the minimum criteria must be set aside for interview and not subject to subsequent change in the minimum criteria."
It is often by failing to follow this that employers can cause anger and resentment amongst disabled applicants.
It is important also to understand the interaction between the use of the symbol and the Disability Discrimination Act.
Failing to follow a specific commitment is not automatically grounds for a complaint of discrimination. Essentially, the commitments amount to positive action to encourage applications and assist career development of disabled people, but failing, for example, to offer an interview to someone who should have been guaranteed one under the use of the symbol is not automatically an act of discrimination.
Similarly, just because an employer acts strictly in accordance with the requirements of the symbol scheme would not provide a defence against, for example, a failure to consider a reasonable adjustment to the stated minimum criteria in determining who should be selected for interview.
In the first instance, if a disabled person wishes to lodge a formal complaint that one or more of the symbol commitments have been broken this should be done through the Disability Employment adviser at the local Jobcentre office.
If this does not produce the necessary change of approach, refer the matter to the PCS disability officer, Lorna Campbell, email:email@example.com.
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