Department for Work and Pensions
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A Qualitative Study Exploring Employers’ Recruitment Behaviour and Decisions: Small and Medium Enterprises

Today the Department for Work and Pensions publishes research which explores the recruitment practices of employers in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), in particular how these relate to disabled people.

The research comprised 60 interviews, two interviews each with 30 employers, across a range of sectors. Employers were interviewed immediately before and after having recruited for a genuine vacancy, enabling them to situate their experiences of and attitudes to disabled people in a meaningful context.

Key findings from the research:

  • The principle concern of SME employers was to find someone who they perceived could ‘do the job’ to ensure their business need was met, such as by retaining an established customer base or maintaining the company’s reputation, with the overarching imperative of delivering a company profit. This necessity had in some cases been compounded by the recession.
  • Successful candidates were chosen based on employers’ perception of: their ability to work flexibly and adapt to different roles; competence; reliability; stability in their private life; employment history; proximity to work; work ethic; personality; and honesty.
  • The main uncertainties employers had around employing disabled people concerned their perception of the (un)suitability of the built environment, risks to productivity, negative impact on staff from any loss to productivity and the risk of harm to the disabled person, staff and/or customers.
  • Employers perceived greater difficulties in employing people with fluctuating health conditions but were found to lack knowledge about specific health conditions and relevant legislation which may have impacted upon their ability to judge the suitability of a disabled applicant in a given role.
  • Employers were more willing to accommodate changes in contracted hours rather than the tasks involved in a role to facilitate the employment of disabled people.
  • Awareness of the Department’s existing policy levers to support the employment of disabled people was low. When asked about specific policies many thought levers such as the use of job brokers, work trials and financial assistance to fund adaptations could be potentially useful in overcoming the uncertainties SME employers harbour towards recruiting disabled people.

Notes to Editors

  1. DWP Research Report 754 ‘A Qualitative Study Exploring Employers’ Recruitment Behaviour and Decisions: Small and Medium Enterprises’ was published on 15 September 2011.
  2. The research was carried out on behalf of DWP by Jacqueline Davidson at the Social Policy Research Unit, University of York. 

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