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Nearly 9 in 10 Adults with Learning Disabilities Struggle to Find Employment, Reveals Hilton Study in the UK

Shomari Burford_Concierge_Hilton London Metropole_Team photo
  • Almost 80% said fear of being judged at interview put them off applying for a role altogether
  • Despite strong performance once employed and significant benefits for team morale and empathy, only 42% of employers are likely to consider hiring a person with a learning disability in the future
  • Hilton will run a free educational workshop in early September to help businesses overcome the perceived challenges of employing someone with a learning disability

Hilton (NYSE: HLT) – Almost nine in 10 (89%) people with a learning disability in the UK have experienced difficulties finding a job, a new survey commissioned by Hilton to mark Learning Disability Week has revealed.

With a fall in the employment rate of people with learning disabilities to under 5%1, the research uncovered that for the majority of individuals (79%), a fear of being judged at the interview stage had put them off applying for a role altogether. 

Additionally, a lack of confidence (51%) and feeling that prospective employers do not understand what an individual could do with the right support (32%) were key challenges facing those with learning disabilities when looking for a job.

A quarter (25%) felt they didn’t receive enough support during the application process, and 27% worried that they might not have the right support to carry out their responsibilities once employed.

The challenge also extends to those that have successfully found employment, with 62% saying they found it difficult to keep their job – primarily because they felt the company was not equipped to support those with a learning disability (45%) and that they did not have the right support from their team (41%).

Challenges echoed by employers

To support those with learning disabilities looking to find employment, Hilton partners with the Down's Syndrome Association’s WorkFit programme, which brings together employers and job-seekers who have Down’s Syndrome, supporting employers with resources, advice and training to provide employment opportunities, as well as Aurora Foxes, a specialist training college that provides training, work experience and employment opportunities to young adults with learning disabilities.

As part of the research, the hospitality company explored the barriers facing businesses when it comes to welcoming those with learning disabilities into their workforce.

The findings echoed similar challenges, with 60% admitting they don’t think UK companies are doing enough to be inclusive. 

Employers highlighted a perceived lack of suitable roles (30%), not believing they have the right infrastructure in place to support those with a learning disability (26%) and concerns about the cost of additional training (21%) as the key barriers to recruitment.

Despite the challenges employers face, the research demonstrated the significant value of employing those with learning disabilities. The vast majority (89%) of employers who had hired someone with a learning disability confirmed that they met or exceeded expectations. 

Businesses highlighted a significant increase in empathy amongst their teams (62%), stronger team bonds (48%) and an improved understanding about the value of a diverse workforce (45%) as some of the broader benefits of recruiting those with a learning disability.

More training and support needed for employers

Despite this, only 42% of businesses said they are likely to hire someone with a learning disability in the future. 

Those with learning disabilities highlighted a real need for more training for fellow team members (39%) and managers (38%) to ensure employers are equipped to welcome individuals into their workforce. Employers echoed this sentiment, with nearly half (46%) saying they received no training on how to hire or manage someone with a learning disability, and 36% admitting they had no ongoing support in place once an individual is hired. 

To help other businesses overcome the perceived challenges around employing someone with a learning disability, Hilton is launching an educational workshop in partnership with the Down’s Syndrome Association and Aurora Foxes. The free workshop will take place in early September, and businesses can register early interest here.

Stephen Cassidy, senior vice president and managing director, UK & Ireland, Hilton, said, “Building an inclusive workplace which allows every individual to thrive is fundamental to the success of any business. We’ve seen first-hand the benefits of supporting those with learning disabilities, welcoming some exceptional talent into our business in partnership with the Down’s Syndrome Association and Aurora Foxes. But this research shows there is a real opportunity to empower more businesses to embrace this wealth of talent. We hope that by sharing our experience, we can inspire other employers to provide much-needed job opportunities for those with learning disabilities and help them reap the benefits that a diverse workforce brings – from employee engagement to business performance.”

Mia Dell_Food_Beverage Assistant_Hilton London Euston_Team photo
Food and Beverage Assistant Mia Dell with her team at Hilton London Euston

In support of its commitment to helping people with learning disabilities find fulfilling, paid employment, Hilton works with its partners to provide job opportunities, currently employing team members across functions including front office, kitchen, food & beverage and revenue management. 

Shomari Burford, aged 24 from London, has Down’s Syndrome and began his career as a doorman through the WorkFit scheme in 2018, fast becoming an integral part of the guest-facing team. Thriving in his front-line job in one of the world’s busiest cities, he now works in concierge, ensuring guests have a seamless stay and supporting the hotel’s operations team. He’s loved by colleagues and guests alike for his warm and enthusiastic nature.


“I love working here! It’s great to see a lot of guests coming in and out the hotel, and I really enjoy helping them. That’s my favourite part of the job, as well as working with my team who have all been very supportive.”

Shomari Burford

Concierge, Hilton London Metropole

Mia Dell, aged 22 from London, has Down’s Syndrome and started her career as a food and beverage assistant at Hilton London Euston last year. She has fast become an invaluable member of the team, with her infectious personality making her a favourite amongst young guests. Mia’s skills shine brightest during breakfast service, a crucial part of any hotel stay. 


“My team is very friendly and everyone helps each other, which is why I love working here. I love working the breakfast service, as I get to talk with all our guests and recommend what food they should try.”

Mia Dell


Food and Beverage Assistant, Hilton London Euston

Alison Thwaite, WorkFit employment development manager, Down’s Syndrome Association, said, “The findings highlight the critical need for companies to prioritise training and support for decision-makers when it comes to welcoming people with learning disabilities into the workplace. As well as providing benefits for businesses, the power of employment for those with a learning disability cannot be underestimated. Finding work can help individuals increase their circle of friends, build self-esteem and confidence, increase independence and support both personal and professional development.”

Mark Costello, principal, Aurora Foxes, said, "These findings show a real need for businesses to do more in terms of training and support. When you prioritise inclusion, individuals with learning difficulties can thrive in their roles and contribute to the success of a business. Former Foxes students have really benefitted their employers because of their strong work-ethic, dedication and attention to detail. Our students benefit from working too, as entering the workplace can provide a sense of purpose and self-worth. It also leads to increased social connection and financial independence so they can lead the life they choose.”

Notes to editors:

For media enquiries please contact press_office@hilton.com 

As part of Learning Disability Week (19-25 June), Hilton and OnePoll surveyed 500 employers, 500 people with learning disabilities, and 100 parents / carers of people with learning disabilities who had applied for a job, to uncover the barriers around learning disability inclusivity in the workplace.

1Figures from the British Association for Support Employment - Employment Rates for People with Disabilities 2021-22 | British Association for Supported Employment (base-uk.org)

Media Contact

Hilton Press Officepress_office@hilton.com 

About Hilton

Hilton is a leading global hospitality company with a portfolio of 22 world-class brands comprising more than 7,500 properties and nearly 1.2 million rooms, in 126 countries and territories. Dedicated to fulfilling its founding vision to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality, Hilton has welcomed over 3 billion guests in its more than 100-year history, was named the No. 1 World’s Best Workplace by Great Place to Work and Fortune and has been recognized as a global leader on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices for seven consecutive years. Hilton has introduced industry-leading technology enhancements to improve the guest experience, including Digital Key Share, automated complimentary room upgrades and the ability to book confirmed connecting rooms. Through the award-winning guest loyalty program Hilton Honors, the more than 180 million members who book directly with Hilton can earn Points for hotel stays and experiences money can't buy. With the free Hilton Honors app, guests can book their stay, select their room, check in, unlock their door with a Digital Key and check out, all from their smartphone. Visit stories.hilton.com for more information, and connect with Hilton on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube


About Hilton Corporate

Hilton is a leading global hospitality company with a portfolio of 22 world-class brands comprising more than 7,500 properties and nearly 1.2 million rooms, in 126 countries and territories. Dedicated to fulfilling its founding vision to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality, Hilton has welcomed over 3 billion guests in its more than 100-year history, was named the No. 1 World’s Best Workplace by Great Place to Work and Fortune and has been recognized as a global leader on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices for seven consecutive years. Hilton has introduced industry-leading technology enhancements to improve the guest experience, including Digital Key Share, automated complimentary room upgrades and the ability to book confirmed connecting rooms. Through the award-winning guest loyalty program Hilton Honors, the more than 180 million members who book directly with Hilton can earn Points for hotel stays and experiences money can't buy. With the free Hilton Honors app, guests can book their stay, select their room, check in, unlock their door with a Digital Key and check out, all from their smartphone. Visit stories.hilton.com for more information, and connect with Hilton on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube


About Down’s Syndrome Association

The Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) is the only charity in the UK that is there throughout the whole lifespan of somebody who has Down’s syndrome, from before birth, through to old age, and everything in between. Our aim is to enable people who have Down’s syndrome to live full and rewarding lives, and we have been going for more than 50 years. WorkFit, our employment programme, brings together jobseekers and employers, working with them to create successful job opportunities. 94% of candidates placed by WorkFit who have been in permanent paid work since 2021, continue to be employed. Amongst the hundreds of employers we are working with, are GXO Logistics, Gucci, Odeon, Nando’s, Wickes, Dunelm, Greggs, DEFRA, the Environment Agency and various police forces. Visit: www.downs-syndrome.org.uk and connect on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn