Employers and recruiters unwittingly impose a ‘glass ceiling’ on disabled Australians, largely due to a lack of infrastructure and understanding – and new figures reveal that disabled people are half as likely to be employed compared to the general population.
John Walsh, a PwC partner and author of a new report, Disability Expectations: Investing in a better life, a stronger Australia, said that as a disabled person himself, he has been lucky to have very supportive employers, but that support isn’t always there for others.
Walsh said employers commonly have questions over “’How do we employ someone like this’, ‘how are the other work mates going to deal with it’, ‘what happens if they get an injury - are they covered by workers compensation?’,” and he commented “all of these questions imply a need for employers to be supportive in how they even get to square one.”
The PwC report highlighted some alarming statistics, namely, that Australia came in 21st out of 27 OECD countries, and 45% of disabled Australians live in poverty – double the OECD average.
Speaking to ABC, John Della Bosca from the National Disability Services Lobby dubbed the employment rate a ‘national shame’, and Lynette May from Disability Employment Australia said in many cases the biggest issues is ‘attitude’.
“Employers, whilst they’re open to it, feel nervous, uncertain – if you like, unqualified,” May said.
However, from next July the Federal Government will be increasing subsidies to employers of disabled workers, and benefits of employing disabled workers extends beyond a community responsibility.
According to the Australian Employers' Network on Disability's Opportunity booklet, “attracting, recruiting and retaining people with disability can provide a significant and often overlooked opportunity for business, and a solution to Australia's skills crisis.”
There is also mounting evidence which suggests that businesses able to handle diversity and disability are better positioned to succeed in a globalising economy as they are equipped to interact with a more complex customer base, environments and cultural diversity.
James Partridge, Chair of UK-based Disability Employer Engagement Steering Group said, “We, as employers, should not judge a person’s suitability for a role based on their disability. We should instead look at each individual’s ability and focus on what they can bring to our organisations if we provide the support, which in most cases is just about being flexible.”
In addition, Sue LaVerne, managing director of Business Services at E.ON Energy,said “We see no reason why our disabled employees should not have the same opportunities and career progression as their non-disabled colleagues.”
- Stephanie Zillman
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