The type of inclusion that many employers overlook

by HRD21 Aug 2017
Most HR professionals are aware of the many benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce. Over the last decade, employers across Australia have made impressive progress in the areas of gender, ethnicity and sexuality diversity.  

But there are still major shortfalls in terms of inclusion of people with disabilities. HRD chats to Philip Jenkinson from Media Access Australia about the practicalities of creating a workplace that is inclusive of people with disabilities.

To what extent are companies currently hiring people with disabilities?

Overall, working aged people with disability currently have both lower participation (53%) and higher unemployment rates (9.4%) than people without disability (83% and 4.9% respectively), according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data (4430.0) from 2016.

The current trend is downwards, with employment rates falling for people with disability. The Australian Productivity Commission’s 2017 report shows that the number of people with disability in employment fell by around 6%, and the unemployment rate for the group has worsened by 3%, since 2009.

What are the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce?

Making the recruitment process fully accessible enables employers to reach more highly qualified applicants, it reduces the possibility of disability discrimination in the hiring process, portrays a positive and inclusive organisational culture and helps diversify the workforce.

For some employers with a strong customer focus, having a diverse workforce that reflects their customers and the broader community means that they can better understand their customer’s experience and improve service delivery. It’s also been proved to increase morale and lift productivity, and the business benefits of hiring people with disability are outlined in a report compiled by the Australian Network on Disability. (https://www.and.org.au/pages/business-benefits-of-hiring-people-with-a-disability.html)

What’s more, a 2002 Deakin University study found that workers with disability are no more likely to be injured at work than other employees and there are no differences in performance and productivity. It also identified that employees with disability actually have fewer scheduled absences than employees without disability, and assistance with the cost of making workplace adjustments is still available through the Australian Government funded Employment Assistance Fund.

Fundamentally, the principles of employment are the same for people with disability as for those without… what are the skills, talents and capabilities the person can bring to the workplace.

What can HR do to ensure their hiring strategy is not excluding people with disabilities?

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, education, provision of goods and services, and other contexts. Just as importantly, having a non-accessible recruitment strategy excludes some talented individuals from being considered for a position, if forms, processes and procedures are inaccessible.

So it’s important to ensure that your job ads, position descriptions, online application forms, timesheets, and mandatary policy-adhesion documents such as a Social Media Policy, are accessible to screen readers for those with a vision impairment (with alt text in place and a phone option), offer flexibility for Deaf and hearing impaired people (captions on videos and also options to a phone number only), and those with a cognitive disability or English as a Second Language (not too much jargon or complicated language).

Not-for-Profit digital access advocates, Media Access Australia, have put together a new Guide on digital accessibility in recruitment to provide practical ‘real world’ advice and tips on how to address accessibility-related issues in human resources management. It’s free to download here.

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