Why you should hire employees with disabilities

by Janie Smith06 Aug 2014
Does your workforce include employees with disabilities?

If not, you could be missing out on an important talent pool that has benefits for business.

Jason Barker, deputy CEO of the Australian Network on Disability, told HC that there were still misconceptions around what was involved in hiring workers with disabilities.

He said that some employers were concerned about the kind of workplace adjustments they might have to make to accommodate a disabled employee’s needs, but in reality, such adjustments were often minor.

“I think the average adjustment is about $400 and in fact, there’s a government program called Job Access which pays for most adjustments. So the employers often don’t have to pay anything anyway.

“There are good case studies around the place where things like safety, productivity and staff turnover are actually better with employees with disabilities.”

According to the network’s statistics, more than four million Australians have some form of disability, which equates to one in five people.

Of those, 2.1 million are of working age.

Barker said things like workplace flexibility, which is becoming common practice in many businesses, could be all that’s required to accommodate a worker’s disability.

“It might be that there is no other adjustment except that using public transport is difficult and if they could maybe work from home on a Friday, that could really set them up for the week ahead.”

He said it was a matter of considering the attitude and level of determination that such employees provided.

“They can be overcoming things just to get to work. The desire to get and keep a job is really strong. The engagement is there when someone with a disability does get a job.

“A lot of our members look for people with disabilities as a talent pool. It’s quite competitive in terms of getting graduates with disabilities into organisations. They’re actively looking for people with disabilities.”

He said often things like internship programs changed employers’ attitudes about workers with disabilities and their abilities.

Australia Post employs 2,249 workers with a declared disability and Diane Utatao, the organisation’s national diversity and inclusion business partner, said that since it launched its first accessibility action plan in 2012, it was focused on improving access for people with disabilities to job opportunities, products, services and facilities.

It recently launched a new disability awareness training resource called Work Mate, designed to improve disability inclusion in the workplace.

“Our objective is to highlight examples of our inclusive culture, break down stereotypes, focus on ‘abilities’ and empower our employees to feel more confident working with their colleagues with disability,” said Utatao.

What benefits have you experienced from hiring workers with disabilities?


  • by Annie 6/08/2014 1:14:14 PM

    Hi Guys - great that you have an article on this, as working for a community services organisation that employs people with a disability we know the benefits. Just so you keep up to date with the "lingo" we don't call people with disability "disabled workers" they are "workers with a disability". This is about not labelling the whole person. eg. we dont call people with a broken arm, a broken person or a person with cancer a "cancerous person" - therefore people with a disbility should not be labelled as a disabled person but a person with a disability. A small change but small changes can make big change in attitude towards people with a disability.
    Most of the article got it right - just a couple of slip ups!
    Once barriers are overcome a person with a disability may no longer have one. It is the many barriers (that includes attitudes) that people with a disability have to overcome that makes people have disabilities in our society. This is not only about people with physical disbilities as having a wheelchair space outside your office doesnt help people with learning difficulties.
    It is being aware and celebrating peoples differences and abilities, and overcoming barriers for all.

  • by Carey Rudd 7/08/2014 10:42:46 AM

    I think it should always be the person first; a person who is black, a person who is Muslim. a person who is gay.

  • by Shane Smith 9/08/2014 10:00:07 PM

    The other thing also to consider is that the definition of what is considered a disability is broad and deep.
    Eg I put on a seminar once that was to inform pathways for young people in schools who have disabilities to a life just like all of us post school.
    And there was a presentation given where after an equity manager from a large western Sydney university read all of the full definition out there was not 1 person who was able to raise their hands as either not that day or previously never had a "DISABILITY".
    With adequate on the job support People With a Disability (#PWD) can as productive as well "You"!
    Also if #NDIS gets off the ground #PWD will have "Support Packages" Aka cash. So it makes good business sense to understand their buying needs as there could well just be a further 6 Billion for #PWD to flex the economic power of consumer is king!
    So is your business set up to be a contender to get some of the money? If you some it will pay to show that your business supports by walking the as well as only talking it.

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