In the UK, around 11 million people are living with some degree of hearing loss today, making it the second most common disability. At least 4.4. Million of these people are of working age, and the employment rate amongst people with hearing loss is 65% (compared to 81.7% of people with no disability). Part of creating a diverse and inclusive work environment is ensuring all employees feel supported and valued, which is why it’s so important to ensure you’re building a culture where people with hearing loss feel comfortable to do their job. In this article, we’ll look at how to support employees with hearing loss.
With around 12 in 100 employees being affected by hearing loss, every company needs to ensure they’re actively supporting these people so they feel happy and secure in their jobs. With the nature of hearing loss and the fact that it’s an invisible disability, it’s sometimes difficult to ensure that this inclusive culture spreads to every area and individual in the business. 7 in 10 people with a hearing disability have said that their colleagues have not communicated effectively with them. This disconnect can lead to people leaving their jobs, with 1 in 4 deaf people saying they have quit due to discrimination.
Effective management and policies to support employees with hearing loss can help to reduce the risk of them feeling like they’re not supported and therefore reduce turnover and possible grievances.
The 2010 Equality Act means all employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees who are disabled in some way. These reasonable adjustments can be small but make a huge difference to the individual.
Things which could be considered by an employer include where the employee who has hearing loss is seated in the office and in meetings – can they see everyone easily if they need to lipread? Is there a text-to-speech software which you could implement for meetings to help them keep a grip on conversations? Can their job be changed in any way to make things easier for them? All of these things and more can be implemented at little/no cost to the employer but make a big impact on the day-to-day of the employee.
Every person experiences hearing loss differently. One person might only have a slight impediment, whereas some people can’t hear at all. If your employee has a hearing disability, it’s so important to sit with them and understand the level of support they need from you. You can offer a Workplace Assessment which will identify key areas which might need adjusting to suit the employee, and also allows them to raise anything they’re worried about.
Candidates with hearing loss represent a skilled and valuable resource but often go unnoticed. In order to attract and recruit them, there are steps you can take to make your job search more inclusive. For example, consider adding an equal opportunities statement in the job advertisement to ensure people consider your business one who actively encourages applications from all walks of life. Another thing to look into is the Disability Confident scheme run by the UK government. The scheme gives employers information and advice about being an inclusive employer and hiring from the disabled community.
When offering candidates an interview, make it part of your process to ask if they have any access needs, as you don’t legally need to tell potential employers about any disability when you apply for a role. This will allow you to prepare for the interview process and conduct in a way which the candidate will feel comfortable with. It may be that someone needs a speech interpreter present, or a text-to-speech software.
Current estimates predict that by 2035, one in five people will have some form of hearing loss, showing that the disability is on the increase. So, it’s key to focus more on making an inclusive work environment and supporting people with hearing loss, so that employment rates rise and the disability becomes more visible.