I have been banging on for the last few blog posts about the need to change the narrative around disability and areas where we believe the support provided by the Government can improve.  This month I’m going to talk about one of our other candidate groups that is very close to my heart.&... Read more >

I have been banging on for the last few blog posts about the need to change the narrative around disability and areas where we believe the support provided by the Government can improve.  This month I’m going to talk about one of our other candidate groups that is very close to my heart.  As the granddaughter of a Major in the Australian Army, I had seen all too often the impacts from the latest conflicts and was very aware of the difference a job could make for someone who was transitioning out of service.

Helping our Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel and their families to find employment was the first area we expanded our services to from people with a disability and I could not be more proud of the work the Enabled Employment team has done to get our people into jobs.  Since January 1 2017, not only have we advertised 170 jobs to our candidate groups from the fantastic businesses we work with, we have put 29 ex-ADF personnel and their families into jobs in the last two months alone.  This is real results, and has in some circumstances, been life changing for the people we are supporting.

I wanted to touch on today, why we believe this is such an important area for us to focus on and why we run our business privately rather than as a charity or reliant on Government funding.

Why employ our veterans?

1999 was a turning point for the ADF, with an overseas conflict deployment of more than five thousand troops to Timor, the largest since the Vietnam War.  In the following eight years the ADF experienced the largest period of operational activity in more than a decade.  In 2001, Afghanistan came in to the mix and from this deployment, along with The War in Iraq (2003 – 2007), we saw the need for our ADF to be involved in two active Global theatres of conflict, on top of other multiple operational peacekeeping and peacekeeping requirements.

At the same time, ADF personnel were increasingly the first we called on for domestic and regional assistance due to natural disasters and national initiatives, increasing the tempo on all personnel.  As a consequence, we now have many young veterans who have seen multiple deployments of 6-8 months, in multiple theatres of operations, including conflict and relief assistance & peacekeeping roles. We have a young generation of veterans and their families, who have seen an extraordinary service tempo in diverse and different theatres, requiring multiple absences from home and family.

To date we still have troops on Operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Lebanon, Egypt, South Sudan, the Middle East Region, The South West Pacific, South China Sea/Indian Ocean and on Border Protection duties.

We have sent our serving men and women into danger, where they have faced innumerable threats to their person, and where some have been killed or injured while serving our country whilst many have been impacted in some way by their service.  Whether or not their mission was peacekeeping or relief assistance, domestic or global, the results are similar; and today we continue to send them.

How we look after our servicemen and women when they leave the Australian Defence Force is a mark of how we, as a society, respect the personal sacrifice they have made through their desire to serve community on behalf of our country.

Why is Enabled Employment assisting ADF veterans into work?

We see employment opportunities as a vital part of looking after our servicemen and women, and supporting their families. A job contributes to continued mental health by providing an income, a structured activity, a sense of purpose and personal worth and social contact.  A job goes a long way towards maintaining physical and mental good health, preventing marriage and family breakdowns, combating known problems such as veteran homelessness and/or declining mental health.  Finding and providing assistance to access the right conditions for work for all veterans should be a community obligation in recognition in their service on our behalf.  After all, they have some of the most amazing skills, have demonstrated leadership and followership, and have a dedication that is an asset to anyone.

And for families of serving men and women, who routinely hold down the homefront during those times of absences, enduring stress over their loved ones, as well as moving multiple times with their spouse or parent on posting; we recognise the disruption to careers and study.  We are family members of former serving personnel, and our own experiences have shown us the difficulty faced by family members seeking work when an employer looks at your chequered employment history, often assuming you won’t be in the job for long because your partner or parent will be posted again.

Our model of business

Enabled Employment uses positive discrimination and operates as a private company. That means we have an outcome based model – if we don’t put people into work – we don’t survive as a business. This gives us an urgent imperative to ensure we find work for the ex-ADF personnel and their family members who sign up as candidates. 

We respect the right of ADF veterans to have a legitimate employment service which does not rely on government funding, nor charity donations but provides a service grounded on actions and outcomes, not inputs and outputs, which respects the career of every individual. We have chosen a business model that charges employers for a legitimate service that demands results, and employers who advertise through us understand that employing ADF personnel makes good business sense because of the skills and leadership qualities they have.

We know ADF personnel and their family members are proud of their service, and we believe it should not be a charity donation to employ an ex-serviceman or woman, but a valued privilege.  We can see that people are having difficulty with the transition from military to civilian life, and we want to ensure there are job opportunities available with inclusive employers.

But doesn’t the government look after our ex-ADF?

The federal government’s recent policy initiative to promote the inclusion of ex-ADF members in employment was nothing more than a promise that:

If you disclose you are ex-ADF that you will be interviewed for a job in the Australian Public Service if you apply for one.

Like the ‘disclosure’ idea for people with a disability applying for jobs in the Australian Public Service guaranteeing an interview – all it does is increase disclosure rates and ensure bean counting is possible so the government can tick a box saying it is doing ‘something’ about veteran employment. It doesn’t increase the likelihood that ex-ADF personnel will get a job.

What can we as a nation do now?

The conditions of service of an Australian Defence Force personnel member who is transitioning to a civilian career are not all publicly available. Anecdotal evidence from some former ADF and their family members indicates that they aren’t aware of all their entitlements when transitioning often because they can’t access them in a format compatible with their work computers.

And if they do try to access them, the paperwork can take months, bogged down in a bureaucratic process which doesn’t measure successful outcomes reflecting how many transitioning ADF have been assisted, but measures how much money was spent by the department for their annual reporting against key performance indicators which are funding based, not person centric.  While there are no caps on funding, in an economy with a ballooning budget deficit, the pressure is, after all, on saving government expenditure.

What we do know, is serving personnel who are transitioning to the civilian workforce are entitled to the following:

  • Less than 12 years of service.
    • Two day Job Search Preparation course, 2 hours one-on-one coaching, 5 days approved absence.
  • 12 to less than 18 years of service.
    • Two day Job Search Preparation course, 2 hours one-on-one coaching, up to $1,000 Career Transition Training, or $1,100 Career Transition Management Coaching and 10 days Approved Absence.
  • 18 or more years of service, or Compulsory Retirement Age irrespective of length of service.
    • Up to $5,320 Career Transition Training or $2,820 Career Transition Management Coaching (CTMC), $253 CV coaching and 23 days Approved Absence.
  • Medically Discharged
    • Up to $5,320 Career Transition Training, $2,820 Career Transition Management Coaching, $253 CV Coaching, and 23 days Approved Absence.

The Defence Transition Handbook, which you can find here http://www.defence.gov.au/DCO/_Master/documents/Transition/ADF-Transition-Handbook.pdf is a publicly available document which outlines some of the entitlements due to the ADF upon leaving service.

Where to in the future?

We want to see the issue of employment for former ADF members raised into the public spotlight. We are focussing our efforts on changing the narrative around jobs for our ADF personnel post service with employers, as we have the conversation with them one by one, or from a public platform.

We believe employing our ADF members post service should be a clear policy from business, and governments. Our focus remains outcomes and impact based, finding the jobs and putting former ADF personnel and their family members into meaningful work.  But we will also take every opportunity we can to ensure we keep the conversation public, constructive, and respectful of those who have served Australia. To do otherwise, as a society, is to dishonour the sacrifice and service of ADF members, and their supporting family.

A historical Defence Froce poster that reads "Remember ANZAC" Employers and citizens generally are asked to assist the Government and State War Council by providing employment for returned soldiers.

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments
I’ve written about this before, but every now and then I have an epiphany, and I have to write about it again.  Look, there’s just no ‘diversity’ without people with a disability being included in the mix. Every company, every organisation, and every corporate image ha... Read more >

I’ve written about this before, but every now and then I have an epiphany, and I have to write about it again.

 Look, there’s just no ‘diversity’ without people with a disability being included in the mix.

Every company, every organisation, and every corporate image has some sort of diversity and inclusion policy and practice these days, but people with a disability come under the ‘corporate social responsibility’ label.

Or, in other words, the ‘too hard’ basket.

Diversity and inclusion officers and representatives themselves fail to include people with a disability in their employment initiatives. I once went to a meeting where a person with a disability was espousing the virtues of a particular inclusion program as a ‘diversity and inclusion’ representative, and she opened with the remark…”There’s no disability, just a bad attitude’ – a quote from Scott Hamilton.

So what’s wrong with that statement?

What it does is tell people with a disability who are out of work that it’s their own fault they’re unemployed, and that their attitude towards work is the reason they are unemployed.

It’s my experience as the CEO of a recruitment company for people with a disability representing thousands of candidates, that it is not the attitude of people with a disability that is responsible for the appalling unemployment rates of that cohort – it is the attitude of prospective employers, and people without a disability who are responsible for providing employment opportunities for them.

Partly to blame is our definition of diversity. We include women, people who identify as LGBTI, Indigenous Australian or culturally diverse people for equal opportunity in our employment policies and statistics. But there is very rarely a mention of people with a disability in diversity policies or practice.

Stop demonising people with a disability

Let’s go back to the example of the person with a disability who used the definition ‘There is no disability except a bad attitude’ for a minute.

If people with a disability themselves are espousing this philosophy, then it gives permission to the rest of the working world to blame us as well for being unemployed. It demonises people who are unable to access work due to their disability.

And I’m done with demonising people with a disability, who are being blamed as well for an annual $800 million Disability Employment Services bill to the Australian Government. Let’s be clear, people with a disability aren’t pocketing large amounts of cash to sit around and refuse to work with a bad attitude – the money goes to Disability Employment Service providers under the government’s Disability Employment Framework.

But, sadly, a lack of corporate governance means that in some providers, there is an emphasis on spending as little as possible assisting a person with a disability into work, and maximising the profit taking from the government funding. In the Department of Social Services recent discussion paper on the Disability Employment Framework, openly acknowledged that people with a disability were being ‘parked’ – signed on to an employment services provider – and no action at all being taken to assist them back to work in order to maximise profits.

And that’s not the worst of it. For an $800 million bill, the Australian Government, spending taxpayer dollars, has absolutely no record of where the money has gone, and openly acknowledges in the Discussion Paper that there is no accountability for the considerable sum of money, and that the performance overall of the DES system is declining – meaning even less people with a disability are assisted into work.

In any other industry, this would warrant at least a Senate Inquiry, if not a Royal Commission.

But people with a disability – who cannot at this point, even change their DES provider - are being told it’s their own fault they can’t find a job and that they’re the ones who are expensive!

Clearly, if these practices continue, the unemployment rate will continue to rise, and there will be even less assistance to people genuinely in need, or employer education about disability.

It’s a matter of choice

Enabled Employment has made a submission to the Department of Social Services as part of the current discussions around Disability Employment. We are advocating for freedom of choice in providers for people who need to use them. What the public doesn’t know is that once signed on, even if you receive no service at all from your provider, you cannot change your provider.

The current discussions also canvass how to ensure each person with a disability receives the correct funding support. However, the government is considering a system which perpetuates the provider’s control over funding, as some people involved in the discussions consider that people with a disability are unable to make their own choices due to some lack of either insight or intellectual ability.

There are some people with a disability that do need assistance to make decisions about their support choices; however the vast majority do not. If we were not able to make our own choices, then surely the entire NDIS system would fail, because it is based on the knowledge that people with a disability in fact are able to make their own choices about the support they receive.

And if you are unable to make your own choices about how and where your monetary support from the Australian Government is spent in supporting you to find work, how then would you cope with actually working, and why are you being forced to look for work?

It’s time we had choice and control over where funding is spent. We don’t need parenting by people with a pecuniary interest in perpetuating the current dysfunctional system.

We don’t accept government funds

I looked carefully at the DES system when forming the company, and decided to take an ethical stance not to accept government funding for employing people with a disability.

Employing a person with a disability should be as routine for employers as anyone else. Making reasonable adjustments in the workplace happens every day for workers who are injured on the job as part of a rehabilitation and return to work program, and accessibility isn’t the nightmare employers might think it is.

Generally in Australia, it costs an average of $600 to make reasonable adjustments - for which there are Australian Government grants available to employers.

So I decided to go ahead and demonstrate a business model which provides choice and control to people with a disability, without the demonisation which goes with taxpayer funded support. Since we launched Enabled Employment, we’ve found that the demand for self determination and choice in employment options for people with a disability is outstripping the jobs available.

Perhaps part of the problem is that employers receive a subsidy for employing a person with a disability from the Australian Government, a kind of ‘compensation’ for having a ‘broken’ employee. As long as our government keeps paying people to ‘take on’ a person with a disability, the expectation of underperformance will continue.

Frankly, it’s time to stop taking the money away from people with a disability and giving it to people who just bank it, and start encouraging employers to make the reasonable adjustments which allow people to thrive in their jobs.

There’s no real diversity, no hope of reflecting the structure of our society, without the inclusion – the real and genuine inclusion – of people with a disability in the workforce.

You can read our submission at https://engage.dss.gov.au/des_reform_nov16-submissions/1482128213/

Image of Stella Young and quote saying That quote, 'the only disability in life is a bad attitude', the reason that's bullshit is ... No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp. No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshelf and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into braille.

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 If 4.2 million Australians have a disability, as recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics[1] in 2015, why is our image and definition of a person with a disability still centred around what they can’t do, rather than what we can do?  Why do we think of disability in a narrow,... Read more >

 If 4.2 million Australians have a disability, as recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics[1] in 2015, why is our image and definition of a person with a disability still centred around what they can’t do, rather than what we can do?  Why do we think of disability in a narrow, deficit focussed way?

 Australians think of disability as the ‘medical model’, as a ‘deficit’, a person can’t walk, or can’t hear, or see, can’t think the ‘normal’ way.

 “Neurology’s favourite word is ‘deficit’, denoting an impairment or incapacity of neurological function: loss of speech, loss of language, loss of memory, loss of vision, loss of dexterity, loss of identity and myriad other lacks and losses of specific functions (or faculties).”[2]

― Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales

 Oliver Sacks made a good point. We do think about what a person can’t do, rather than can.

Under the medical model, a disability of any kind is likely to be interpreted as unable to function at all, rather than being an extraordinary human being who has adapted to an illness, genetic disorder, or acquired injury.

But people with a disability and their closest advocates, often their family members, may have a different view. The social model of disability sees the environment in which people live, and its rigid demand for ‘normal’, as responsible for the inequalities people with a disability face, and changing that physical, attitudinal, communication and social environments as the answer.

For example, making a reasonable adjustment in a workplace for a person with a disability enables both social and economic participation. Access doesn’t just mean a wheelchair ramp, in fact, in the majority of cases this won’t be necessary, but can mean a range of things; adaptive technology, quiet working environments, a desk situated close to the lift, screen readers, hearing loops, but most importantly, the attitude of the people around that person.

We currently define disability in the workplace via a medical model, for the most part. This suggests that the person with a disability make the adaptation to the workplace, rather than the workplace making adaptations for the person with the disability. The medical model suggests that a disability is in need of a ‘cure’, or ‘treatment’, and where successful, it is then the person with the disability who must ‘normalise’, where the social model suggests modifications to attitudes and provision of equipment, or access, as the answer, so that people with a disability can participate in work.

The responsibility of adapting lies with the workplace, and different ways of undertaking work are used to ensure a person with a disability is not further burdened by trying to adapt to a ‘normal’ way of working, when that may not be possible.

Attitudinal Change

We can’t undertake the task of implementing reasonable adjustment without the attitude change that must go with it towards people with a disability in general, in our society.

Without attitude change, any physical modifications or adaptive technology will continue to make difficult the prospect of working and staying in a job.

How do we change attitudes? There are many attempting to change the narrative around disability, to change our thinking from medical to social model.

‘Inspiration porn’

This wouldn’t be food for thought without contemplating the politics of disability. The late Stella Young pointed out why we object to being called an ‘inspiration’ in her TedTalk[3]. Using the medical model of disability, the not-for-profit sector has been very successful in raising funding from using stories of ‘inspirational’ people with a disability, and studies on the marketing of not-for-profits show that some advertisements raise a lot more money than others. That’s why around Christmas time you’ll find a lot of advertising for charities featuring seriously ill children, children at risk in foreign countries, or children who have no presents or Christmas dinner. They are aimed at maximising an emotional response, persuading donors to act.[4]

The longer we keep using media which shows ‘inspirational’ stories, such as that of a child who has a physical disability completing a 50 metre race at school and subsequently being an ‘inspiration’, the longer we perpetuate the medical model thinking of a child adapting to try to ‘adapt’ to a ‘normal’ activity.

What’s the answer then?

To battle the medical model used routinely to fundraise, we need to change the entire dialogue around disability, in everyday circumstances, at work, at play, at school, and in social settings. The narrative around disability can be overwhelmingly reinforcing as a medical model of deficit. Under the social model of disability, the narrative must change to discussion of what people with a disability can do, given the right adjustment of the environment. The environment can be social, attitudinal, physical, communications or economic.

Attitudinal change is achieved by developing a positive narrative about disability around how the rest of the world can adapt to having a person with a disability in their midst, no matter what that person’s disability is.

Developing a positive narrative isn’t enough, though. We must also show the way forward for the development of a much less rigid definition of disability under the social model. If disability is regarded as a matter of adapting an environment, many things which were disregarded under the medical model come into play. Rather than only providing physical equipment needed, we can foster the entire environment to be flexible enough to adapt to people with a disability. And it’s not just a matter of language, it is physical and attitudinal change. In a workplace, this is easily translated to reasonable adjustment. But who does the adjusting?

Definition of reasonable adjustment

The definition of reasonable adjustment in a workplace is also based on the medical model of disability. It comes from the ‘rehabilitation’ focus, how do we improve a person’s ‘functionality’ in the workplace to equal their non-disabled peers? It is focussed on adapting the person to the workplace, the nine to five job.

If we change the focus of reasonable adjustment to include not only the physical equipment a person needs to adapt to a workplace, but adapting the work methods, ways of working, and attitudes of co-workers around people with a disability, we maximise their effectiveness as employees.

Job sharing, flexible work hours, flexible working arrangements, results only work environments and awareness training for co-workers are all part of a reasonable adjustment definition that we think needs implementing in the majority of workplaces in Australia, not only for people with a disability, but parents, carers, and remotely located communities.

As the saying goes, if you get it right for a person with a disability, you get it right for everyone.

The real cost of employing a person with a disability is rarely more than an average of AU$6-700, for which a grant is available from the Australian Government.[5]

Diversity must include people with a disability

There are some employers willing to embrace a social model definition of disability, who have made awareness of disability in the workplace, and reasonable adjustments a reality, and they are to be applauded. But there are many still operating under the medical model definition.

Not only do employers need to step back and take a look at the definition of reasonable adjustment, but also the definition of diversity.

If we take diversity to mean a true reflection of our population, with 4.2 million Australians with a disability we can assume that around one-fifth of our employees will have a disability. So far we have seen successful campaigns defining diversity as including

  • people of multicultural and Indigenous Australian heritage,
  • women
  • people who identify as LGBTI;

but often we do not include people with a disability as a specific group of people for inclusion in our workforces. Australia has one of the lowest inclusion rates of people with a disability as employees in the OECD.[6]

Some organisations have implemented a ‘disclose and interview’ policy, where people with a disability can self-identify and be prioritised for interview when applying for a job. This alone will not improve the employment participation rate – it may improve the ‘disclosure’ rate - it must come with a readjustment of thinking, attitudes, and accessibility. The social model must be applied to access, reasonable adjustment and workplace attitudes to disability to have any success. The definition of diversity must change, and the social model of disability must be applied to the definition of reasonable adjustment. This is part of the answer to expanding inclusion and diversity to represent the real diversity available in our workforce.

Until that happens, there won’t be a rise in the employment rate of people with a disability discernibly beyond where it is now, costing some $800 million in payments to Disability Employment Service providers, whose effectiveness in finding work opportunities for people with a disability has been shown to be declining.

We are not a Disability Employment Services provider, but a private company which is changing the narrative around disability to reflect the social model, if necessary, one job at a time.

Where next?

It’s simpler than you think. When you consider adapting your work environment to a person with a disability, think flexibility.

Enabled Employment can assist you with the implementation of practical and cost effective strategies to ensure your workforce is truly inclusive of the diversity of our population, using the social model of disability. We can give you the facts on the advantages, both social and economic, that attitude change, diversity, application of a broad definition of reasonable adjustment will bring to your business.

As a leader in the employment of people from diverse backgrounds, we can ensure that your company, business or organisation can set the standard and change the conversation about disability in the workforce.

Get in touch with us today.

 

[1] 4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015 

[2] Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales

[3] https://www.ted.com/talks/stella_young_i_m_not_your_inspiration_thank_you_very_much

[4] Guilt Appeals: Persuasion Knowledge and Charitable Appeals Hibbert, Smith, Davies & Ireland, Nottingham & Leicester Universities, Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 24(8): 723–742 (August 2007)

[5] http://askjan.org/media/lowcosthighimpact.html

[6]http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/FlagPost/2011/December/Disability_employment_in_Australia_and_the_OECD

 

New Mindset heading with a tickbox of yes selected

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments
I was at a meeting recently, where the topic of employment for people with a disability was being discussed. The meeting had representatives from all areas of business, government and the not-for-profit sector. I was mightily surprised, in fact, that the business leaders at that meeting saw the ans... Read more >

I was at a meeting recently, where the topic of employment for people with a disability was being discussed. The meeting had representatives from all areas of business, government and the not-for-profit sector.

I was mightily surprised, in fact, that the business leaders at that meeting saw the answer to the astonishingly shameful employment rate of people with a disability as philanthrophy.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a right time and a right place for philanthropy in our society. It achieves great things, and enables organisations to fund necessary and vital relief for people in our society.

But it doesn’t actually employ a person in your business. It doesn’t help anyone enter your specific workforce with a disability.

The problem is, we’re expecting the person with the disability to adapt to our ‘normal’ workplaces. And it’s easier to throw money at the problem rather than look at our own businesses and start to include people with a disability in our workplace.

The expectation is that the person will be needy, expensive, unreliable and constantly needing supervisory time. Given this stereotypical impression, it seems easier for corporate social responsibility programs to grant large sums of money to other organisations to ‘deal with’ the problem of unemployment for people with a disability.

If it costs, on average, $600 per person with a disability to make reasonable adjustments in any workplace – for which a government grant is available – then why donate hundred of thousands of dollars to a system that doesn’t work, namely, the charities the deliver Disability Employment Services? Why not bite the bullet now and look for the skills, abilities and aptitudes that make people with a disability the exact opposite of the stereotype you think we are?

Establishing an internship program for people with a disability, for example, is a much more practical and cheaper way forward in addressing unemployment levels for people with a disability. We train graduates – many people with a disability hold academic qualifications – and we have indigenous internships, how about disability internships? Paid ones? That’s what would change a life, and change attitudes and stereotypes in the workforce. Here’s what you need to know:

  • People with a disability take less sick leave
  • People with a disability make fewer workers’ compensation claims
  • People with a disability are more loyal to a company over time
  • People with a disability only need reasonable adjustment and flexible work in order to make the same, if not better, contribution to your business as any other worker
  • People with a disability are lateral thinkers – they’ve had to be in order to manage their lives with a disability.

Enabled Employment have been nominated for, and won awards, locally, nationally and globally, so that we can raise the issue of employment for marginalised groups on big stages.

Our Media and Liaison Manager, Chief Information Officer and me, are all people with a disability. If we three can run our business as a globally award winning and recognised one only 2 years after launching, just imagine what a person with a disability can do for your business – if you give them the chance.

It's no use throwing money at someone else to take care of the problem.

What we need is attitude change. That only happens where employers take charge, establish innovative programs such as internships, and change attitudes in the workplace by employing those with different abilities.

It's your responsibility to affect change in the workforce, not somebody else's.

So what can you do to change the hopes and lives of a person with a disability? We’ve run internship programs before, and we know how to do it. We have thousands of candidates with academic and other qualifications on our website waiting for a job offer with an employer who is willing to take responsibility for changing the world with us.

Touch base with us now.

www.enabledemployment.com

Australian money of different denominations and coins

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments
Most businesses ultimately are concerned with one thing: profitability, and whether they made more this year than last year and how to improve next year. Whether in a period of growth or recession, most business discourse concerns the net worth and profitability of a business; most will rarely make ... Read more >

Most businesses ultimately are concerned with one thing: profitability, and whether they made more this year than last year and how to improve next year. Whether in a period of growth or recession, most business discourse concerns the net worth and profitability of a business; most will rarely make business decisions that may ultimately cost the business too much money for too low a potential for reward.

Employment of people with disabilities has been seen in the past – not as investment in human resources – but as a net cost; an American report in 2009 found that this was an attitude not just at the very top, but at all levels in a business’ hierarchy. Aside from being discriminatory, it is also false. Many costing myths exist regarding employment of people with disabilities.

Insurance Costs

This is the most common assumption, that there are greater safety issues when employing people with disabilities and therefore they represent a greater cost to insure. Firstly, there is the assumption here that insurance premium cost is based purely and entirely on the risk assessment portion of the insurance premium; certainly, risk of injury is one factor but it is not the only factor – the majority of a premium is calculated on likelihood of accidents based on the work the business carries out.

Even if insurance premiums were calculated purely on the risk of accident in the work place, statistics show that people with disabilities are marginally less likely to be the victim of an accident at work. The difference is slight but the common myth that they represent a greater insurance risk is unfounded either way. People with disability therefore represent a lower insurance risk and lower insurance costs.

Accessible Workplace

One of the arguments regarding the cost of employing people with disabilities is that it is either prohibitively expensive or an unnecessary expense for the employment of just a handful of people. The first is certainly not true as there are a number of regional and national schemes and funds available to either completely cover the cost of modification of the workplace or a substantial fund that they can apply to for a bursary through the Employment Assistance Fund and often represents a one off change for the future.

In the unlikely event that a business would be refused financial assistance for workplace modification, it has been calculated that the cost per person averages out at under $500. A UK based disability employment organisation quotes £184 and US statistics quote a similar figure. The investment is highly unlikely to see the business operating at a loss when we consider that people with disability have a lower attrition rate (are more likely to stay in a job) and are more productive.

Human Resource Costs

Workplace modification includes adjustments to doors, installation of ramps, lowering steps and other physical modifications. Human Resource costs come with certain extra considerations for people with disability – new computer hardware (such as a special keyboard or a mouse) software (for people with poor eyesight for example), or specialist office equipment (desk, chair etc). All of this equipment in Australia is covered under the Employment Assistance Fund.

An in depth academic study of common myths proving a barrier to more businesses employing people with disability is here (login required): http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hrm.20211/abstract

This one examines the relative costs and benefits of employing people with disability: http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30001618?print_friendly=true

 

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