For the past year, since launching on 11 September 2015, Enabled Employment has been winning awards for being a ‘start-up’. Start-up is a term used in the entrepreneur and tech world for a new company which is primarily internet based, and which has a business model which involves seeking private venture capital investment after proving their market worth. The term ‘start-up’ can be used while the company is being established. Some start-ups are only months old, while others are two or three years old.
Enabled Employment CEO Jessica May chose to follow the entrepreneurial path when she formed the business model she wanted for the company, rather than choose a not-for-profit business model.
Private venture capital investment is a whole new world for most of us. I learned about it when Jess was accepted into the GRIFFIN Accelerator. Private venture capital investment is when you are asking investors to exchange their hard earned cash for shares in the company.
An ‘accelerator’ or ‘business incubator’ such as GRIFFIN Accelerator is a group of experienced business people and entrepreneurs who exchange their cash for shares in your company to get your cash flow started, and mentor you through your first three months of business and ‘pitching’ for investment. Enabled Employment was accepted into the GRIFFIN program last year in July, and the knowledge gained from the team of mentors about doing business in the corporate world, and investment, was invaluable.
But why would someone choose a business model based on private venture capital when they could run a not-for-profit and get government subsidies, and tax concessions?
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show there are approximately 2.2 million Australians of working age with a disability. The current social security system demands that if you receive a government payment such as Newstart, you are required to meet the job seeking criteria. If you disclose you have a disability, you will be referred to an employment service which specialises in placing people with disability into jobs, in return for government funding.
Jess made a decision on ethical grounds about how people with a disability are offered jobs. Currently, job seeking assistance to people with a disability is paid for by the government, and, depending on the level of disability, per person the government pays $890 for 13 weeks assistance from an employment services provider. Then there is a job placement fee of $770 per job placement, bringing the cost of services per individual to $1660.
Employers are subsidised by the government to provide ‘placements’ for people with a disability. Employers receive a 13 week placement fee of $2860, and a bonus of $572, and at the 26 week placement point, a further $7,700 plus a bonus of $1540. That’s $12,672 for six months provision of a placement.
All this adds up to $14,332 per person, per placement. And that’s at a minimum; the figures are higher for those with higher assistance needs.
Enabled Employment does not receive any of this government funding under the current disability employment framework. CEO Jess May considered the practice of government payments to employers for providing ‘placements’ to people with disability, and decided that another option was definitely both needed, and possible.
As people with skills, work experience, abilities and qualifications, she does not believe employers should be subsidised to employ people with a disability. The company she runs believes wholeheartedly that paying an employer to provide a job to a person with a disability encourages a misplaced belief that it is a ‘charitable favour’ to give work to a person with a disability – rather than an opportunity to diversify the workforce, and gain the demonstrable skills and capabilities of a qualified and skilled employee.
Why should I, for example, a person with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, be considered any less worthy of a role than someone with out those conditions? I’ve only taken one day off sick in the last 2 years, I work full-time hours, I have two degrees – and over 20 years experience as a professional communicator. Why should an employer get a windfall of some $12,000 to employ me for a short six months?
By not taking government subsidies, Enabled Employment is trying to change attitudes, in every sphere of Australia’s corporate world, towards how we regard the work capabilities and value of people with a disability. We do not believe that subsidies are the answer, for either employers or people with a disability.
So Jessica, and our Chief Information Officer and web wizard Chris Delforce, have ‘mainstreamed’ the recruitment process for our employee cohort, providing a jobs website where people with a disability can access job opportunities with inclusive employers – using flexible working options and a results oriented work environment.
Our approach ensures there is some level of self determination and choice in how people with a disability find work.
There’s a saying in ‘start-up’ world, and that is ‘Be the change you want to see.’
We are the change we want to see, and we hope our journey continues as successfully as it has for the last ten months.