Many of Australia’s 4.37 million people with disability are still experiencing barriers to employment, with employment experts warning that, as a result, businesses are being deprived of a highly loyal and productive talent pool.
While a recent report, drafted by Social Deck for the Department of Social Services, revealed that a majority (53 per cent) believe that accessibility and inclusion has improved for individuals with a disability, atWork Australia explained that this does not always translate into action.
“While the findings point to a better future for Australians with disability, nearly a third (31 per cent) of people with a disability reported that discrimination has increased and 34 per cent said that experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation have worsened over the past five years,” said atWork Australia’s DES ambassador, Shaun Pianta.
As such, atWork is urging employers to work towards creating equal and inclusive workplaces.
“Over four out of five (86 per cent) employees with disability have superior attendance over their peers, and 90 per cent are as productive or more productive than other workers,” said Debbie Brooks, atWork Australia’s national diversity employer manager.
“It’s also well documented that employees with disability generate less turnover and fewer workplace injuries than other workers. Hiring a person with disability shouldn’t be seen as an issue to be overcome, but an opportunity to build stronger teams.”
Mr Pianta explained that it’s important for business owners not to make assumptions about people with disability.
“As a person with disability, the worst thing you can do is assume that someone isn’t capable of certain things due to their disability,” Mr Pianta said. “You will be amazed how people can adapt and find new ways to do things.”
Ms Brooks agreed, and added that another common misconception is that employing people with disability carries additional costs.
She explained: “The Australian government provides funding for eligible persons, through the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) which has been implemented to cover the costs of meeting accessibility requirements. This can include buying equipment and accessing services for people with disability.
“Organisations who are dedicated to diversity, including employing people with disability, will also minimise risk of injury, alleviate complaints or breaches of discrimination law, and strengthen a cost-effective business.”
The Australian Network on Disability said that a workforce which reflects the diversity of the wider community is also likely to lead to greater customer loyalty and satisfaction across industries.
“A workforce that reflects your customer base, creates a better connection,” Mr Pianta concluded.