employedJust 16% of people believe the government will achieve their commitment of halving the disability employment gap, a survey by Mencap and Inclusive Employers has revealed.

The charity has published the results of its survey of UK employers to highlight the benefits and barriers of employing staff with a learning disability as part of Learning Disability Work Experience Week.

Findings from more than 60 UK employers also revealed that 23% of bosses feel not all their colleagues would be happy working with somebody with a learning disability.

Additionally, almost half (45%) of respondents who have not employed somebody with a learning disability were concerned it might be more difficult for members of public to deal with staff with a learning disability. This dropped to 30% for those who have employed staff with a learning disability.

Mark Capper, head of employment at Mencap, said: “This survey exposes the nervousness some employers have when it comes to learning disability, but also how these nerves disappear for those that have employed staff with a learning disability.

“The fact that almost 80% felt that having a disabled employee helps a company understand its disabled customers better present a huge commercial benefit to organisations.

“People with a learning disability represent an untapped source of labour constantly overlooked. With the government’s desire to halve the disability employment gap there needs to be a far greater emphasis on how to remove the many barriers that exist for job seekers with a learning disability, and we hope the employers involved in Learning Disability Work Experience Week can convince others to think differently about who they look to for staff.”

There are just 7% of people with a learning disability in paid employment, compared to 46% of disabled people.

Learning Disability Work Experience Week was launched by Mencap and Inclusive Employers two years ago to encourage employers to adopt more inclusive recruitment policies. Employers ranging from McDonald’s, the House of Commons, South West Trains, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Sainsbury’s have all been involved in the scheme.

Richard McKenna, director of Inclusive Employers, added: “We understand that organisations who didn’t have much experience of working with people with learning disabilities may not know where to start. We are thrilled that this initiative [Learning Disability Work Experience Week] is growing every year and that participants from previous years have been offered employment. We are looking forward to many more success stories from 2015!"