Thousands of firms awarded the UK Government’s ‘two ticks’ symbol for equality for disabled workers have been found to be no better than companies who have not achieved it.

Researchers say the ‘two ticks positive about disability’ symbol, which is awarded by the Department for Work and Pensions’ Jobcentre Plus to help job applicants identify organisations committed to helping disabled workers, is nothing more than an “empty shell” used by companies as PR and “impression management” rather than a true commitment to equal rights for disability workers.

The research led by Kim Hoque, of Warwick Business School, and Nick Bacon, of Cass Business School, found that just 15 per cent of organisations awarded the two ticks symbol adhered to all five of its commitments, with 18 per cent of those signed up not fulfilling any of them, with most – 38 per cent – only keeping one of the promises.

Professor Hoque said: “We found there was no difference in the support and commitment to disabled workers between companies who had the two ticks symbol and those who did not have it. We also found no difference between the public and private sector, if anything the opposite was true.

“It suggests that the symbol may often comprise little more than an ‘empty shell’, where employers display the two ticks for impression management purposes to take advantage of its potential reputational benefits rather than because of a genuine concern for disability issues.

“The Government is aiming to reduce the number of disability benefit claimants by moving one million of them into employment. These plans are dependent upon employers being receptive to taking on disabled people in larger numbers, but our research has shown that the widespread adoption of the two ticks symbol is not indicative of this happening.”

Research has found disabled people are almost twice as likely to be unemployed with a 2012 Labour Force Survey finding the unemployment rate for disabled people and those with long term health problems at 49 per cent. Those in work are paid significantly less, experience disadvantage in career progression and access to training, with disabled people over-represented in low skilled and low status jobs, according to research.

Launched in 1990, the two ticks symbol, which has been awarded to 8,387 organisations and is used by 46 per cent of the top 200 FTSE companies, tries to address this by awarding the badge to companies that sign up to five commitments:

1.       To interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for a job vacancy and to consider them on their abilities.

2.       To discuss with disabled employees, at least once a year, what both parties can do to make sure they can develop and use their abilities.

3.       When employees become disabled to make every effort to ensure they stay in employment.

4.       Ensure all employees develop the appropriate level of disability awareness.

5.       To review these commitments each year and let employees and Jobcentre Plus know about progress and future plans.

In Employer Disability Practice in Britain: assessing the impact of the Positive About Disabled People ‘Two Ticks’ symbol printed in Work, Employment and Society, which is published by SAGE, Professor Hoque and his colleagues surveyed trade union disability champions at 116 organisations, 82 of them were in two tick workplaces, on how far their company adheres to the two ticks commitments.

“There is no regulatory pressure on firms to adhere to the two ticks commitments, it is done through employer goodwill and self-enforcement,” said Professor Hoque

“The two ticks symbol will continue to lack impact unless a degree of regulation is introduced to ensure compliance with the five commitments.”

Professor Kim Hoque teaches Understanding & Researching Employment Relations, Employment Relations in Britain and Managing Human Resources on the MSc Human Resource Management & Employment Relations. He also teaches Managing Human Resources and Equality and Diversity on Warwick Business School's undergraduate programme.