The day, which is observed on 3 December each year, “aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions”, and is sanctioned by the UN, with Australian government support since 1996, the official website states.
TurmeriX founder Errol McClelland — the former policeman who has built the business into a $20 million enterprise in three years — has urged other employers to embrace workers who may have a disability, suggesting that the benefits far outweigh any additional costs involved.
“Engaging employees with disabilities and special needs allows you to watch their life transform as their work skills grow and flourish — it’s amazing,” he said.
“I’m happy to wear slightly higher outgoings, because the social outcomes far overtake the cost.”
The business owner said that of the more than 50 people he employs, ten require some form of disability support services.
“[We] work with Nadrasca, an Australian disability enterprise, who specialise in providing staff who have various support needs,” Mr McClelland explained.
“These staff are responsible for a variety of warehousing functions including forklift driving and pick and pack of products which are then sent out directly to consumers (online or market sales) as well as to various pharmacy and health food retailer warehouses across Australia. Everything is generally done by hand so all staff are trained on the job with little additional processes required.
Mr McClelland also said that, from his own experience, those additional costs are not as high as many business owners would initially expect.
“Additional costs are not hugely different (no more than 30 per cent),” he said, reiterating the point that he is more than happy to pay the difference given the community service it provides and the encouragement it provides for other businesses to do the same.
Recruitment bias against disability
Meanwhile, a poll of 1,033 people living with a disability suggests there is a huge bias against hiring people with a disability.
The survey, by recruitment firm Hays, found that 83 per cent of respondents had faced situations where they believed their chances of securing a job were directly restricted because of their disability.
Of those already in employment, two-thirds felt their leaders had a bias to employ people who also look, act or think like them.
And many felt that there is a clear disconnect between their employer’s understanding of diversity and inclusion, and their actual recruitment strategies.
Just one in four (24 per cent) believes their employers are role models for actually implementing diversity and inclusion into their workplace.
“The human case for building fairer and more inclusive workplaces is certain; regardless of background, everyone deserves to work in a safe, supportive and respectful environment,” said Hays local managing director Nick Deligiannis.
“There is also a vital business case for diversity and inclusion, which at its heart drives increased access to and active participation in the world of work from all parts of society.”
The perceived bias against people with a disability echoed the views of Paralympic gold medallist and nine-time tennis grand slam champion Dylan Alcott, who earlier this year launched a campaign aimed at removing the barriers for young people with a disability to securing employment.
“People with disability are fully capable of doing an office job, a supermarket or a retail shop. Just give us a go,” the decorated sportsman said at the time, adding that their biggest barrier is not their own capabilities but the misconceptions other people have about them.