Understanding the Workforce Disability Equality Standard metrics

Paul Deemer

Paul Deemer, head of diversity and inclusion at NHS Employers has pulled together some helpful insights on the metrics in response to recent discussions he has had with both equality and HR leads.

The WDES is a set of specific measures (metrics) that will enable organisations to compare the employment experiences of disabled and non-disabled staff.  The metrics cover areas such as the board, recruitment, bullying and harassment, engagement, and the voices of disabled staff.

The metrics fall into three categories and will present specific challenges and require specific solutions.


Metrics 1, 2, 3 and 10 compare the profile of your disabled and non-disabled staff in terms of a) your pay bands, b) your recruitment processes, c) your capability processes, and d) your board make up respectively. Each of these areas will present different data collection challenges – but the common challenge is around the declaration rates.

We know both from research and anecdotal evidence, that many disabled staff are still reluctant to disclose to their employer if they have a disability. On average three per cent of staff state they are disabled on the ESR, at the same time on average 18 per cent declare that they have a disability on the NHS staff survey – a 15 per cent difference in the declaration rate. This impacts on the data metrics because we know that until we are confident that we have more accurate data, these figures will only give us a snapshot of the issues.

We are encouraging NHS organisations to dedicate significant time and effort in the rollout of the WDES and in the subsequent year to overcome what we call the confidence gap and create a culture where disabled staff in particular are more confident to disclose information about their disabilities to the organisation.


There are various tools, resources and case studies to help you with this, including Disability Confident. Many of these tools can be found on our health and wellbeing, people management and staff engagement web pages. We also have a short podcast which focusses on how one trust improved their diversity monitoring processes.

Organisational culture

On this theme, metrics 4-8 are comparing the experiences of disabled and non-disabled staff against specific NHS Staff Survey questions. The challenge here will be identifying the areas which show the greatest disparities and putting action plans in place to address those gaps.


The tools referred to above will help you (particularly the staff engagement link), but you might also want to look at some case studies of organisations who have embraced the diversity agenda and tried to use that to improve their overall organisational performance. In this respect, the Care Quality Commission report Equally Outstanding is a good source of information. 

Staff voice 

Metric 9 is focussed on assessing the extent to which your organisation gives your disabled staff the opportunity to voice and air their concerns and be heard. This metric might cause you to look at your speaking up procedures, and also whether you have a disabled staff network and, if so, how effective that is.

Further information

Visit the NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard webpage to access the WDES technical guidance and a suite of resources which can assist you with the implementation of the new standard.



Latest Tweets

Latest Blog Post

Being the employer of choice - reward in integrated care systems

04 / 6 / 2019 2.32pm

NHS Employers' Max Liversuch looks at reward in integrated care systems, and the importance of being the employer of choice.

Why Register?

Great reasons to register with NHS Employers

  • A personalised website
    Manage your profile and select topics of interest to you
  • Access your dashboard
    Bookmark useful content to help you quickly find what you're looking for
  • Get involved
    Contribute to our Talking Points discussions, comment on and rate our webpages
  • Keep up to date
    Receive the latest newsletters and media summaries

Log In