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Network will strengthen links between disabled and employers


Disabled employees of nine public sector organisations have joined forces to set up a network to work with employers to improve, enhance and promote equality in the work place.
The Employees Disability Equality Network (EDEN) has been launched in Inverness in response to calls from public sector staff.
Over 50 staff attended the launch to hear about the employment rights of disabled employees from local Employment Solicitor Gillian Shaw from Harper MacLeod LLP.
Vanessa Evans of VisitScotland explained that the new group was set up following an event about Disability in the Workplace held at Eden Court in Inverness last year:
She said: "A lot of us at this event thought it would be a good idea to establish a network for employees run by employees. Then we could work alongside our employers to improve, enhance and promote equality in the work place as everyone is affected by disability or illness at some point in their lives, either directly or indirectly.
"Later, a small group of us, all disabled employees, set up a steering group to work on setting up a network. People who have a disability or illness are becoming more comfortable about expressing their needs at work and feel more able to come together in networks of support like this."
"Disabled people are also increasingly aware of their influence as customers, stakeholders, voters, citizens and of course as employees, so now is the right time to launch this network."
The new network also launched its first project - a survey which will be sent out in the near future to more than 25,000 staff across the 9 organisations, which have staff working across Scotland.
Carol Elliot, a ward manager with The Highland Council and a steering group member, said: "We need all employees to tell us what they think to help us shape the network, what they want EDEN to work on and how it could best serve them and their colleagues in the workplace. Our employers have all kindly agreed to let us distribute this survey through their usual staff communication routes to help us form the network into what employees want it to be.
To encourage people to respond, a prize draw to win a 100 voucher has been donated by Able Care, to spend at the Inverness-based mobility company, and is being offered as an incentive to return the survey.
Employers have supported this initiative and recognise that it could benefit them as well as their staff. Anne Gent, Director of Human Resources for NHS Highland, said:
"NHS Highland is committed to helping disabled staff reach their full potential. We see this disabled employee network as an important way of involving staff who can otherwise feel isolated. We know these staff have much to contribute to healthcare, and this network allows us all to be clearer about the steps we can take to support disabled staff to make that contribution".
Alex Paterson, chief executive of Highlands & Islands Enterprise, welcomed the formation of the Employees Disability Equality Network. He said: "As employers we recognise the value of all of our employees, including those who have a disability or illness. Evidence shows that disabled people are highly motivated and productive, often staying with their employer longer than those who do not have a disability.
Having a network of employees with first hand experience of disability and equality issues can help us improve and inform all aspects of the performance of our organisations. This will help us develop and maintain an inclusive workplace as well as increase our understanding of disabled customers or service users."