A South-Wales based entrepreneur is supporting a Welsh Government campaign aimed at promoting the benefits of a diverse workforce and raising awareness of the support available to help businesses attract, recruit, and retain disabled people.
Ceri Jennings, from Cardiff, is the founder of Sparkles Cleaning Services Wales & West, which offers commercial, construction, domestic and speciality cleaning services across Wales.
Promoting diversity in the workplace is a passion close to Ceri’s heart after she was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age.
Her diagnosis meant that she struggled with spelling and visual processing at a time where dyslexia was not fully understood. The general lack of support and awareness meant that Ceri felt alienated during her years in school as well as early career.
Ceri credits these experiences for helping her become the successful business leader she is today and crystalising her focus on diversity and inclusion as an employer.
She said: “Dyslexia like many other impairments is generally misunderstood. However, I have always felt determined to show that just because my brain processes things differently, it does not mean that I am not able to do what others can.
“Dyslexia itself is not a barrier. It is the barriers which are created in society that can prevent us from achieving our full potential. When becoming an employer, I wanted to contribute to a more open, diverse, and inclusive society.”
Ceri’s commitment to ensuring Sparkles Cleaning became an inclusive employer was also driven by her daughter’s experience of trying to get her foot on the career ladder after she was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.
“My daughter Sophie was encouraged not to disclose her impairment when applying for jobs as she was told it would affect her employability chances. Choosing to ignore this stigmatism, Sophie has successfully paved her own way within the conveyancing industry. She is truly inspiring and is a further force behind my motivation for becoming an inclusive employer.”
Now 20% of Ceri’s staff are disabled and she credits her company’s diverse workforce as a real strength. “As a business, there is so much to gain from adopting an inclusive recruitment process and hiring people from all backgrounds including disabled people. The journey to becoming inclusive is a rewarding process for all parties and involves investing only a small amount of time in order to gain a brilliant, diversified workforce.
“We have experienced increased productivity and less fluctuation within roles held by disabled employees. We have also saved time and money on recruitment costs due to a lower staff turn around, and been recognised as a socially responsible company which has had a positive effect on our reputation.”
To help businesses access an untapped pool of talent there is a wide range of support and advice available to help attract, recruit and retain disabled people.
Businesses could be eligible for funding of up to £60,700 through the Access to Work scheme, which helps cover the cost of any practical support a person with an impairment may need to start or stay in work, as well as funding to help pay for any adaptations to the working environment or installation of any special equipment.
Sparkles Cleaning has utilised Access to Work in order to support the needs of their employees, creating an environment within which they can prosper, including 21-year-old Loughlin Martin who has autism.
Ceri said: “Through Access to Work and the support of specialist employment advisers Elite, we were able to appoint a work support mentor to shadow Loughlin and ensure he felt happy and secure in his role. He’s now flying and is a dedicated member of staff, who treats their job with the upmost respect and genuinely loves what he is doing.”
In addition to financial support, the Welsh Government has recently appointed a network of Disabled People’s Employment Champions to offer businesses bespoke advice on being a more inclusive employers, recruitment practices and access to the support which is available to them and their employees.
For more information on how your business can attract, recruit, and retain disabled employees, contact the Disabled People’s Employment Champions by emailing [email protected] or visit Skills Gateway for Business.