Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) has achieved Disability Confident Leader status – the highest accreditation in the Department for Work and Pensions' scheme which recognises and supports employers who recruit and retain people with disabilities.

WBD employs over 1,100 people across eight offices in the UK and has been a Disability Confident Employer since 2018. The ‘Leader’ accreditation recognises the firm's commitment to lead the way on employing people with disabilities as well as helping other businesses become disability confident.

The firm is one of only five law firms in the UK to achieve this prestigious accreditation following a rigorous assessment process, reflecting its commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive.

WBD's journey to becoming a Disability Confident Leader began in 2016, when it signed up as Disability Confident Committed, the first level of the scheme. Since then, WBD has taken various actions to improve its policies and practices around disability.

In September 2021, WBD established a Disability Network, led by Michelle Essen, a Legal Director in the firm's Construction & Engineering team, which provides support and guidance and implements positive changes for employees with disabilities, as well as allies and advocates.

The firm has enhanced its recruitment processes to ensure that they are fair and accessible for candidates with disabilities, such as implementing the guaranteed interview scheme, providing alternative formats for application materials, and working with specialist organisations.

WBD has also made its invitations and events more accessible and ensured the firm's website contains comprehensive accessibility information about each office - What3Words location references, directions on arrival, and information on lifts, wheelchair access, accessible toilets, hearing loops, guide dogs, and disabled parking - eliminating the need for visitors to request this information separately.

As a Disability Confident Leader, WBD will continue to review and improve its disability inclusion practices, as well as share its learnings and insights with other employers in the legal sector and beyond.

Sally Dallow, the firm's Partner Lead for Responsible Business, said: 

"We are thrilled to be certified as a Disability Confident Leader – one of only five law firms to achieve this. This has been a huge WBD team effort. As a firm we are committed to building an ever more sustainable, inclusive and progressive business and all our networks play an important role in that. It is great to see the success of our Disability Network and to celebrate the way it is driving positive change and inclusion."

Michelle Essen, Chair of the WBD Disability Network added: 

"Achieving Disability Confident Leader has taken a huge amount of time, effort and commitment from so many amazing people across our business. Changing how we think and do things takes tremendous will and determination, but our WBD community has embraced the challenge - and we can see that in how our business is more accessible, using DEI job boards, celebrating neurodiversity, introducing a reasonable adjustments policy, investing in training, sharing IT tips, and simply talking about disability more openly. It doesn't stop here. We have lots of other plans to increase accessibility, and would love to hear more from like-minded businesses and organisations about what they are doing too, so together we can make even greater strides towards a more disability-inclusive society."

Womble Bond Dickinson's Claire Best, Emily Cox, Michelle Essen and Charlotte Hall. (from left to right)

Womble Bond Dickinson's Claire Best, Emily Cox, Michelle Essen and Charlotte Hall. (from left to right).