ESB: Embracing diversity in the workplace

Business in the Community Ireland

Company Description:
ESB (Electricity Supply Board) is a leading Irish company in the energy utility sector, employing 7500 people. It is 95% owned by the Government of Ireland, with the remaining shares held by an employee share ownership trust. In 2006, ESB had a turnover of €3,087.5 million and a profit after tax amounting to €223 million. ESB operates through four businesses: ESB Power Generation, ESB Customer Supply and Group Services, ESB Networks and ESB International.

Business Issue:
Over the past ten years, ESB has made significant changes to its structure and business organisation to facilitate the opening up of the electricity market in Ireland. There has been a continuous reduction in the number of staff, achieved by voluntary exits and reorganisation. Throughout, ESB has maintained its commitment to Equality and Diversity in the workplace and to CR. One area that has benefited is the proactive approach to people with disabilities, championed and supported by the Executive.

Solution Applied:
In March 2006, the company initiated a traineeship programme for people with disabilities as part of their Diversity Policy. The programme involves the recruitment of people with disabilities in diverse areas across the company for a period of six months. The duration of the programme is three years and each year, ESB has committed to recruiting 10 trainees. There is no guarantee of regular work afterwards but if suitable regular positions become available, the trainee can apply. At the end of the programme up to 30 people will have been accommodated in ESB with work experience.

Company Benefits:

  • Contributes to overall Equality and Diversity plans both at corporate and business level.
  • Supports ESB’s objectives and commitment to be a good corporate citizen.
  • Raises awareness with staff about disability issues and the barriers that have to be overcome.
  • Contributes to the development of the chosen mentors who work with the trainees.

Stakeholder Benefits:
A traineeship offers the candidate experience and training which is an extremely important part of their development in seeking full-time employment. These placements accelerate the transition of people with a disability, regardless of their educational background, to careers and opportunities appropriate to their skills and abilities. Before leaving ESB at the end of the six months, each candidate is helped to prepare a CV and given an interview. Support is provided in advance and constructive feedback given afterwards.“I like the work, it is great experience and very good for me to get used to working 9 to 5”, Sinead (visually impaired). “It is great to get back working and get the feel for work again, to have six months work experience after being out of work for a long time”, David (psychological disability). Since the first intake of trainees, four have found employment with ESB and at least one other has been employed elsewhere.

Challenges:

  • Jobs are for a limited period but trainees can apply for full time jobs should they arise.
  • Bonds and friendships are formed that can cause upset when the six months are completed.
  • Supports and knowledge were required to accommodate specific trainees.

Tip:
Ensure thorough research is done in advance on the particular supports required for each trainee. ESB continue to provide work placement for people with disabilities on an annual basis. The programme is now in its 5th successful year. A revised and expanded Disability Code of Practice was published by the company in 2009.

Departments Involved:
Human Resources and Shared Service and all business lines

Solution Champion:
Joyce Farrell, Equality and Diversity Manager. Email: joyce.farrell@esb.ie

Year
2007