Employers concerned about disabilities

Businesses could 'steer away from employing people with a disability'

Employers concerned about disabilities

Disability employment rates have been tagged as a "complex area" by the Business Council of Australia (BCA), as ways to identify members from the sector are hampered by various challenges. Jennifer Westacott, BCA chief executive officer, told the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability that employers are afraid of asking employees about disabilities - while staff are concerned about disclosing them as well.

BCA members, which include some major companies across different industries, reported being worried to ask about disabilities due to existing anti-discrimination laws, according to Westacott as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald. She explained to the royal commission that companies are afraid of breaching any provision on existing discrimination laws. Smaller companies are also concerned about not having enough support for said group of workers and would potentially "steer away from employing people with a disability" altogether. On the other hand, employees are also worried about disclosing such information to their employers, said Westacott.

Read more: Hiring people with disabilities: What you need to know

According to the BCA executive, such challenges are hampering efforts to correctly record the number of disabled workers in the workforce. The royal commission heard that people with disabilities make up one percent of the workforce of major companies, but data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that as high as nine per cent are in the workforce. In the workplace, the commission heard that only 54% of BCA companies have means to record the disability status of job applicants and employees. Westacott suggested data collection on the sector would be much more accurate if a common definition" was in place to help categorise what are considered as disabilities.

"This is a story about Australia’s economic performance," she said as quoted by the Herald. "This is vital to the performance of companies."

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