Disability-confident employers can gain numerous benefits

People’s views about an organisation are influenced by the people who work there. An organisation’s success may depend on its ability to draw on diverse skills and experience of all people who work there. This includes supporting and celebrating diversity, and not seeing “different” as “bad”.

Nearly one in four New Zealanders identifies as having a disability, whether it be physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health-related. It may be visible or hidden, permanent or temporary, and could have a minor or major impact on a person’s life. Here are some interesting facts in New Zealand:

• 21 percent of people aged 15 to 64 are disabled

• 85 percent of disabled 15 to 64 year olds are not disabled at birth

• 24 percent of people in NZ are disabled

• 45 percent of disabled adults are employed compared with 72 percent of the non-disabled

• 61 percent of disabled people aged 15 to 64 were working in paid jobs in 2013

• 74 percent of those who weren’t employed said they would like to work

• Only 10 percent of disabled staff require modification to their work area or equipment.

Many organisations already have disabled people; in their workforce, as customers, shareholders or even as suppliers. However, disabled people are sometimes not hired because of the perception, fear, myth and prejudice — like that accommodating a person with a disability is too expensive.

A 2011 report by Deloitte for the Australian Network of Disability found that the cost of recruiting disabled employees is generally lower, and most disabled workers display better attendance, higher productivity and lower health and safety issues than non-disabled staff.

The Ministry of Social Development has produced a guide for employing disabled people called the Lead Toolkit. It is a useful resource for business owners, leadership teams, managers and human resource teams, highlighting the many benefits of employing disabled people. It helps employers to get the information they need to become “disability confident”.

Disabled workers appreciate the opportunity they have been given and this commonly leads to loyalty and longevity in a role. Further, only 10 percent of disabled people require assistance technology or adaptations to workplaces to enable them to do their jobs. But if this help is required, government “support funds” are available via Workbridge for any special computer software or alterations, such as to toilets or installing ramps for wheelchair users.

Exponential improvements in technology are quickly opening up alternatives — for example, enabling more people to work from home. This can be very important to disabled people for whom mobility is a daily challenge. Their work life can also be vastly improved by the likes of better computer reading systems for the blind, more advanced Cochlear implants and audibility devices for the deaf, and more mobile wheelchairs. In addition, more thought is going into the design of buildings and workplaces.

A number of organisations can provide support and assistance to disabled employees, or can help you recruit disabled people for available positions:

• Workbridge — can assist finding disabled employees, provide advice and support on recruitment and follow-up support after hiring. They also administer support funds which can help with additional costs: workbridge.co.nz

• JobCafes Possibility website — has an “available now” section where employers can view profiles of disabled people seeking work. They also offer the opportunity for a small fee to advertise jobs: jobcafe.co.nz

• ACC — can help with modifications and provide advice about how to assist employees who have acquired a disability return to work: acc.co.nz

• Work and Income — can give a modification grant, work brokers to help you find employees with the right skills, or provide wage subsidies. They can also put you in touch with other employers to hear their success stories and to learn from them: workandincome.govt.nz

You can also call 0800 805 405 with any questions about managing and supporting new or existing disabled staff, or staff with health conditions.

The disability sector is not one to be ignored. In New Zealand it is the second largest sector after gender, and I understand that it is greater than the combined populations of Maori and Pasifika. Furthermore, people with disabilities and their families and friends are an important market for many of your products and services.

For organisations that haven’t considered tapping into the disability talent pool, why not give it a go? Look to hire people with disabilities. Hopefully you can eliminate or lessen the preconceived ideas that exist. This in turn will lead to more businesses hiring disabled people.

People’s views about an organisation are influenced by the people who work there. An organisation’s success may depend on its ability to draw on diverse skills and experience of all people who work there. This includes supporting and celebrating diversity, and not seeing “different” as “bad”.

Nearly one in four New Zealanders identifies as having a disability, whether it be physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health-related. It may be visible or hidden, permanent or temporary, and could have a minor or major impact on a person’s life. Here are some interesting facts in New Zealand:

• 21 percent of people aged 15 to 64 are disabled

• 85 percent of disabled 15 to 64 year olds are not disabled at birth

• 24 percent of people in NZ are disabled

• 45 percent of disabled adults are employed compared with 72 percent of the non-disabled

• 61 percent of disabled people aged 15 to 64 were working in paid jobs in 2013

• 74 percent of those who weren’t employed said they would like to work

• Only 10 percent of disabled staff require modification to their work area or equipment.

Many organisations already have disabled people; in their workforce, as customers, shareholders or even as suppliers. However, disabled people are sometimes not hired because of the perception, fear, myth and prejudice — like that accommodating a person with a disability is too expensive.

A 2011 report by Deloitte for the Australian Network of Disability found that the cost of recruiting disabled employees is generally lower, and most disabled workers display better attendance, higher productivity and lower health and safety issues than non-disabled staff.

The Ministry of Social Development has produced a guide for employing disabled people called the Lead Toolkit. It is a useful resource for business owners, leadership teams, managers and human resource teams, highlighting the many benefits of employing disabled people. It helps employers to get the information they need to become “disability confident”.

Disabled workers appreciate the opportunity they have been given and this commonly leads to loyalty and longevity in a role. Further, only 10 percent of disabled people require assistance technology or adaptations to workplaces to enable them to do their jobs. But if this help is required, government “support funds” are available via Workbridge for any special computer software or alterations, such as to toilets or installing ramps for wheelchair users.

Exponential improvements in technology are quickly opening up alternatives — for example, enabling more people to work from home. This can be very important to disabled people for whom mobility is a daily challenge. Their work life can also be vastly improved by the likes of better computer reading systems for the blind, more advanced Cochlear implants and audibility devices for the deaf, and more mobile wheelchairs. In addition, more thought is going into the design of buildings and workplaces.

A number of organisations can provide support and assistance to disabled employees, or can help you recruit disabled people for available positions:

• Workbridge — can assist finding disabled employees, provide advice and support on recruitment and follow-up support after hiring. They also administer support funds which can help with additional costs: workbridge.co.nz

• JobCafes Possibility website — has an “available now” section where employers can view profiles of disabled people seeking work. They also offer the opportunity for a small fee to advertise jobs: jobcafe.co.nz

• ACC — can help with modifications and provide advice about how to assist employees who have acquired a disability return to work: acc.co.nz

• Work and Income — can give a modification grant, work brokers to help you find employees with the right skills, or provide wage subsidies. They can also put you in touch with other employers to hear their success stories and to learn from them: workandincome.govt.nz

You can also call 0800 805 405 with any questions about managing and supporting new or existing disabled staff, or staff with health conditions.

The disability sector is not one to be ignored. In New Zealand it is the second largest sector after gender, and I understand that it is greater than the combined populations of Maori and Pasifika. Furthermore, people with disabilities and their families and friends are an important market for many of your products and services.

For organisations that haven’t considered tapping into the disability talent pool, why not give it a go? Look to hire people with disabilities. Hopefully you can eliminate or lessen the preconceived ideas that exist. This in turn will lead to more businesses hiring disabled people.

Craig Sidoruk is a human resources and employment relations consultant with Business Central in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne. If you would like to know more, contact him at 027 292 9330 or email: craig.sidoruk@businesscentral.org.nz

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