World Down’s Syndrome Day: It’s very personal
Keith Mayne, Regional General Manager, GXO | March 21, 2023
World Down’s Syndrome Awareness Day takes place on March 21 every year. Why that date? Trisomy 21 (T21), more commonly known as Down’s syndrome, occurs due to an extra copy of chromosome 21. Thus, March 21. We help raise awareness of Down’s syndrome by wearing lots of socks — mismatched and colorful.
Back in 2017, GXO began a partnership with WorkFit, the UK-based Down’s Syndrome Association’s employment program, which brings together employers and jobseekers who have Down’s syndrome.
My reasons for initiating GXO’s involvement in the WorkFit program are very personal. I have two beautiful daughters, Kiera, who is 18 and neurotypical, and Amelia, who is 11 and happens to have Down’s syndrome. When Amelia was diagnosed, I was exposed to a new world. I did what most parents do in similar circumstances — I lived her lifetime within minutes, imagining all the things I had taken for granted and mourning the things that she would never do.
According to the latest statistics from the British Association for Supported Employment, only 4.8% of adults with learning disabilities in the U.K. are in paid work.* This really struck a chord, not least because I wanted to create a pathway for Amelia to achieve independence when the time came.
I suggested to my site team that WorkFit would be a great program to support our recruitment efforts and demonstrate our commitment to “be inclusive.” Logistics operations comprise many repetitive tasks, and we believed we could match the right candidates with an appropriate role, agree on a safe process, deliver adaptive training and offer the opportunity for paid employment.
The impact of this program is transformative. I remember meeting our first WorkFit placement, Sam, and his parents, and seeing how much his work with GXO meant to them. When Sam received his first pay cheque, he told me that he had taken his mum and dad out for dinner and paid for it himself. I have to say on hearing this, I cried. Even six years on, the emotion comes flooding back. And yes, Sam is still a valued GXO colleague!
It wasn’t long before the ripple effect started, something I never could have imagined. I didn’t know if others would share my passion, but I was humbled to discover that so many colleagues wanted to help. It’s been incredibly inspirational to see the momentum building as more and more sites have joined the program.
GXO is now the largest single employer of adults with Down’s syndrome in the UK through the WorkFit program. Even in my wildest dreams, I didn’t think the program would grow to where it is now. I thank everyone who has had a hand in this fantastic partnership, which demonstrates true inclusion and offers our colleagues with Down’s syndrome independence through employment. I’m looking forward to the day when Amelia will be able to take me out to dinner!