Building Better Workplaces For People With Disabilities

Building Better Workplaces For People With Disabilities

The business case for employing and retaining people with a disability is clear; it offers an organisation the ability to attract the best talent and benefit from that talent, research has shown that it leads to reduced sick days and greater staff morale as well as the ability to attract a broader customer base.

Confidently and successfully employing people with a disability may also reduce claims of discrimination and will help organisations develop a reputation as a progressive place to work.

There is also a strong ethical case for proactively seeking out and employing people with a disability and with more consumers and customers educating themselves on the moral positioning of the companies they use, this is a significant consideration.

Despite the fact that it is the right thing to do from both a business and ethical standpoint, for many businesses it can still be hard. Employers may be concerned about how it will impact other employees, whether they will have to modify the work environment, whether insurance premiums will rise and whether they will have to deal with increased sick leave.

The good news is, these myths about employing people with a disability have been debunked and according to the Australian Network on Disability employing people with a disability doesn’t cost any more than employing people without a disability, furthermore employees with a disability have been shown to have fewer sick days, longer tenure and their productivity and performance is on pat with colleagues without a disability.

So with this in mind how can organisations work to improve the employment outcomes for people with disabilities?

Develop a true commitment at the leadership level

This requires leaders to establish and communicate the fact that employment of people with a disability is a priority and the mobilisation of people in middle management to execute that policy. This also requires the recruitment of people with disabilities into leadership positions so that the top down approach filters through the organisation.

Assign responsibility

Organisations can make someone responsible for attracting, recruiting and retaining people with a disability and ensure that person has the support they need to be successful. This person should also be held accountable for achieving the organisational targets set by the leadership team.

Find a partner

If your organisation is struggling to attract candidates with a disability through the standard recruitment process then consider using a recruitment agency which specialises in placing candidates with a disability.

Establish employee resource groups

These groups should be open to employees with disabilities as well as caregivers and supporters and should be chaired by a person passionate about advancing the employment outcomes of people with a disability. These groups can be used as a forum for conveying the experience of employees at the grassroots to the top of the organisation as well as places for conducting audits of workplace, product and customer accessibility.

Make managers accountable

Organisations need to embed goals for attracting, engaging, advancing and retaining employees with a disability in performance plans and scaffold them to achieve these goals through the recruitment process.

Measure understanding and results

Make sure you include measures for employees with a disability in your employee survey to find out how well the organisation is tracking. Use the results to target areas where the organisation needs to improve.

Make it safe for people

Many people with disabilities are nervous about telling their employer about their disability, this is especially the case if they develop a disability while in a current position. Developing an organisational culture which makes it safe for employees to disclose their disability and offering support for employees to continue working (such as through flexible work policies, or modifications to the work environment) will help you retain your staff.

Raise understanding

All employees should be trained on the correct etiquette for working with people with a disability so they don’t feel awkward and understanding of the situation. Managers have an important role in eliminating the fear of interacting with people with disabilities and reducing unintended bias. Managers need to be trained to be inclusive in their language and their actions and need to have an appreciation of their accountabilities and legal responsibilities.

There is a wealth of information available for organisations interested in improving their workplace practices to make life easier and more rewarding for employees with a disability. Below you’ll find a couple of suggestions.

For more information on Care Corporate’s range of products and services for supporting employees with a disability click here.


Australian Network on Disability

Leveling the Playing Field by The Conference Board