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Lets talk about Disability Awareness Day

We often talk about recruitment issues in our blog and tie them into a 'national day.' And there seems to be a national day for just about everything. But this particular day - Disability Awareness Day - is one that's particularly close to my heart and for a very good reason.

I have a team of 20 staff working across both offices of Ascendant Recruitment and one day in 2015 the life of one of my consultants was changed forever. Izzy, whilst travelling back from holiday, was involved in a collision on the motorway. Whilst lucky to be alive, she was paralyzed from the waist down. 

I can't explain my feelings when I went to see Izzy in hospital for the first time. However, I decided there and then that no matter what she needed from us, we'd do it, because giving her a sense of normality from a work perspective, was the only practical thing we could do to aid her recovery and show how much we cared.

I want to use this blog to raise awareness of disability in the workplace. Since Izzy's accident, we've made adaptations to her workplace so that she could come back to her old job when she was ready and I hope that my experiences might help another employer who is going through the same thing.  

But more important than any physical changes, the most important changes we made were in our mindsets.  Aided in no short part by Izzy's incredible powers of resilience, determination and sunny disposition we have all become far more flexible about how we can get our job done in different ways; whilst still delivering a great service to our candidates and clients.  Changes have included Izzy completing far more skype interviews, working totally flexible hours and completing a lot of her duties from home.

Overall we can summarize our changes:

  1. Environment
    Luckily we were in a ground floor office with a ramp outside and toilet facilities, so that was a helpful start.  When she was ready to come back, we worked with the necessary people to look at how we could set up her workspace and equipment to make work as comfortable as possible.
  2. "Flexible" Phased Return
    Izzy had been away for an extended period and it wasn't possible for her to come back to work full time straight away, so we arranged for her to come back on a phased return.  The key thing to the phased return was quickly getting an appreciation that this wouldn't happen in a neat straight line because (we've learned) that physical recovery (no matter how hard the person works and Izzy is more tenacious than anyone you'll meet!) doesn't happen in neat little spurts.  Our flexible phased return - with no pressure or expectations - we think has taken the pressure off Izzy and allowed her to put all her efforts where they need to be, getting better.
  3. Support for Mental Health
    I am in awe of Izzy's mental strength.  I was terrified when I saw her lying in her bed the morning after her accident.  Over the last 4 years, there are many times that I have asked myself if I could have coped?  Izzy has done more than cope, she has thrived. I know that understandably she's faced many dark days, but I have NEVER ONCE HEARD HER MOAN or show one ounce of self-pity.  Without doubt, watching Izzy over the last 4 years, I have learned more about being mentally strong than I had in the previous 41 years of my life.
  4. Time off for appointments
    What has shocked me most was that the biggest issue for Izzy now is not her lack of mobility, but the ongoing health conditions that she has as a result of her accident. Izzy is currently off to have an operation which will take her away from her job for a number of months. Luckily, we have a great team here at Ascendant Recruitment, so her work is being covered by the team - we are all pulling together while she is away.
  5. Support for colleagues
    Izzy was helped by the fact that she was already about the most popular member of our team in 2015 so there was no shortage of offers of help!  But it goes without saying that genuine support from colleagues provides an essential part in speeding up her return to work. 

With my background in recruitment, I thought I knew a lot about the law around disability -  however it is really quite complex and involved. I found a number of these resources useful:

  • This guide from the government outlines what your responsibilities are if you are employed and become disabled. 
  • There is help from a great scheme called Access to Work which can provide financial support for things like adaptations to the workplace and help getting to and from work.
  • If you are an employer and need to make adaptations for a member of your team, I'd recommend you talk to the specific bodies appertaining to the disability your employee is facing.  In our case, The Spinal Injuries Association have provided Izzy with invaluable support.

Back to Disability Awareness Day. This is a great initiative (based in the North of England), however, I really liked the ethos behind it.  Founder Dave Thompson wanted to set up an event with a small amount of money in his budget that showed people with disabilities the options that were available to them to live an independent life.  Back in 1992 when this was just an idea, Dave and his team were told that it would never work because businesses wouldn't want to support this initiative and because 'disabled people would be too poorly' to go to an event. I'm so pleased that some of these issues have been challenged almost 30 years later and that an event such as Disability Awareness Day is showing the world what's possible.

Entering the job market

Whether you're re-entering the job market or just beginning your search, job hunting can be daunting for all of us. In this week's blog, we wanted to give you some tips on how you can confidently take that dive into the job market, regardless of what stage you're at!


Believe it or not, there's life after redundancy. Being made redundant can be devastating, but if you use the time wisely, it can also be an opportunity for re-evaluation. Perhaps you weren't so happy in the industry you were in, now's the time to really explore your interests. This will help you in your job search as the more specific and passionate you are about particular roles, the more excited you'll be to apply, which will boost your motivation.
TIP: If you realise you want a job within a sector you have zero experience in, find online courses and relevant voluntary roles while you aren't working.

The returning traveller

Beginning the process of sitting down and applying for jobs can be a huge lifestyle change if you've been away for a long time. If you were constantly on the go and exploring earth's wonders while you were away, you probably didn't have much time to prepare or even think about the job-hunting process. 

So, where do you begin? Update your CV and if you did some voluntary work, shout about it - employers love this. Next, bring yourself up-to-date with all the relevant industry news as this will help you feel at ease and confident as you enter the job market.

A change in career
So, you're experienced in your field and you've just realised that you'd like a change in your career. You've had a skim through your CV and noticed that you have no experience in the sector you'd like to enter. In this case, we'd suggest volunteering as it's a great way to gain experience in specific industries. Check out the blog we wrote on this recently! By volunteering, you're giving yourself a good footing into the job market. You'll also have transferable skills that you've gained from your current and previous jobs - remember to put those on to your CV too!

Maternity Leave

Returning to the job market after maternity leave can be extremely daunting. However, the key thing to remember is that you had skills before you left your job and they are still valid. But, be prepared for what's changed. Spend some time looking for free training courses online so you can bring yourself to speed with what's changed in your industry - you can also add these courses to your CV. Think about any transferable skills you've gained in your previous jobs and during your maternity, this can also be added to your CV and potentially help you stand out.


As a new graduate, you'll have done several essays and projects during your studies and you can show these to employers. We recently wrote a blog about job-hunting as a graduate and it's worth checking that out for more in-depth information on entering the job market.

School Leavers

This time of your life can be both exciting and scary. If possible, get as much experience as you can, you're still figuring yourself out, anything you do will work towards building your CV and increasing your employability. Make sure to get a reference from a teacher, this is important as all jobs - even some voluntary roles will require a character reference.

Temporary work

Undoubtedly, most people in this ever-changing world aim for the security of a permanent role. However, the reality is that nothing is truly permanent. So, at this crossroads keep your mind open to the idea of temporary work. No longer does this type of work have the image that it once had. Previously some less informed people thought that only people not capable of gaining permanent work completed temporary work. In 2018 the temporary recruitment industry grew again to £35.7 billion in part due to the increasing use of temporary workers to fulfil permanent roles - many employers now use this method (temporary to permanent) as their chosen method of acquiring new talent. Even if your temporary role does not lead to a permanent role, it's a great way to improve your skills, network, and earn money whilst looking for your ideal permanent position.

We hope this has helped, remember at Ascendant Recruitment we're always available to help you in your search. Contact either our Milton Keynes or Northampton branch if you need any help with getting back into the job market.