UKHospitality: Opening up the industry

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, on how its new Disability Action Plan is aiming to promote greater inclusivity...

Because the hospitality industry is so vitally important to communities across the UK, we take our obligation – indeed, our duty – to make it a sector that’s more accessible as an employer and service provider for disabled people very seriously. It’s why UKHospitality has drawn-up a Disability Action Plan, comprising a series of initiatives that we hope will ultimately see all parts of our industry, including contract catering, open to everyone, and for hospitality to be a lucrative and fulfilling career option for all.

One of the ways to achieve this aim is to educate and inform businesses on how they can accommodate all mental, cognitive and physical abilities. (So that we’re a credible advocate for improving accessibility in the sector, we’ll also be working to become a DWP level three disability confident organisation.)

When those with mental, cognitive and physical impairments look at working in the hospitality sector, they must see an industry that can be a good fit for them. We’ve identified several ways to make that a reality, including making the route to hospitality easier to access.

We’ll work to make vocational college courses more accessible for disabled people; connect contract catering businesses to the sort of training providers and resources that will provide existing staff in the sector with the confidence necessary to support disabled colleagues; and identify ways to make applying for roles more straightforward, and enable disabled people to demonstrate their important personal qualities and skills during the application process.

Channels through which we can encourage disabled people to consider hospitality include job centres – using their websites to promote contract catering as a career option for disabled people; local authorities – encouraging them to consider a hospitality career as an aspiration when creating education, health and care plans; and teachers – demonstrating that this is a potential career option for disabled students.

Once in their new roles, UKHospitality will endeavour to ensure that disabled employees have the necessary tools and information to make doing their jobs easier. We’ll also educate businesses about how they should talk about disability and how communications should be tailored for disabled audiences.

Ours is necessarily a long-term plan, but we’ve identified these short- and mid-term objectives: inspire greater take-up of level two disability confident status throughout our sector; raise the profile of disability awards; make measurement of disability ratios within member companies more commonplace; and make tools and resources for supporting disabled people readily available.

In the same way that the hospitality industry is the one that can lead the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery, so it’s the one to show the way when it comes to helping disabled people flourish. As well as our own Disability Action Plan, UKHospitality is also closely involved with the shaping of the  national disability strategy, which is looking at how government and employers can make workplaces more inclusive for disabled people.

Progressive, innovative, entrepreneurial and one of – if not the most – inclusive sectors out there, hospitality should be, can be and will be open to everyone. This will include those people with mental, cognitive and physical impairments.

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