Hydro UK : From Learning to Action

At Hydro UK we have been working over the last 12 months with two organisations called BARNWOOD TRUST and EVENBREAK. Barnwood Trust are a charity whose vision is that Gloucestershire will be a better place when disabled people and people with mental health conditions are equal, empowered and their rights are upheld. We have joined with them as one of their ‘Empowered Employers’ partners. The Empowered Employers campaign aims to support organisations within Gloucestershire to consider attitudes and policies that enable meaningful work opportunities for disabled people, people with mental health challenges and neurodivergent people. In Hydro UK we look to benefit these learnings across all of our sites.

As part of the campaign, we have attended a Learning Programme led by a company called Evenbreak, which supports employers to make practical adjustments but also challenge assumptions about disability. In addition, we have joined with several other Gloucestershire employers who have all committed to wanting to make their workplace more inclusive and in particular for those with a disability. Empowered Employers is a campaign that looks at the ways in which barriers to employment present themselves; the employment gap, the pay gap and the opportunities gap.

The aim of the Learning Programme has been to equip senior leaders with the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to create and implement an action plan leading to meaningful and measurable progress on disability inclusion within their organisations.

We have learnt that we may already have disabled people in our business but we also don’t know who they are. It was a realisation moment for everyone and something that then generated a whole new learning experience for us all.

Over the course of the programme, members of the HR team and other organisations in the Empowered Employers campaign have met as a group and participated in a series of workshops. This has been a fantastic opportunity to hear from experts and learn about the experiences of disabled people in the workplace. We have also heard how other businesses are managing EDI in their workplace and gained greater insights into the barriers people face and how we can make changes in our business. The workshops have made us stop and think about how inclusive we really are and how we could be missing out on a whole new population of talented people.

Additional to the workshops we have also been involved in Action Learning Sets where individual situations are shared by members of the group. The group then facilitates a discussion to explore ways of managing this situation. It has been a fantastic way to hear new ideas from other employers and to network across a variety of industries.

Since joining the working group, we have reviewed our own Well Being and Absence policies and amended where we believed we needed to. We have introduced Mental Health Allies to support mental health at work and opened up a safer place for people to talk about how they are feeling. We are reviewing our recruitment processes and ensuring that they are as inclusive as they can be and ensuring that how we recruit does not limit disabled people from applying.

The UK government have introduced a guaranteed interview scheme for any disabled person who meets the criteria for the job and this is something we want to market as part of our recruitment process. We are also preparing ourselves to ensure that we meet the standard required for the first level of the Disability Confident Employer Scheme. We are nearly there and looking forward to being able to use the logo on our branding.

We have gained so much more knowledge from working as part of this group and the next phase is all about putting into practice what we have learnt and sharing the knowledge with our management teams. Removing any barriers for disabled people is key to making us a more inclusive attractive place to be. We have created our own action plan following on from the sessions and plan to continue with the good work we have started.

The programme has provided us with the confidence to not shy away from employing disabled people, but to see it as a real opportunity to look at how we can support these applications and benefit from people’s skills and experience. We know that this will provide Hydro with even greater insights for our colleagues and customers and greater strength in diversity.

Shani Walker, Hydro UK

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