t HR experts are aware of the many advantages of a diverse and inclusive workforce. Over the past decade, employers across Australia have made impressive advances in gender, ethnicity and sexual diversity.
However, there are still major shortcomings in the inclusion of people with disabilities. HRD is talking to Philip Jenkinson of Media Access Australia about the practicalities of creating a workplace that empowers people with disabilities.
To what extent are companies currently hiring people with disabilities?
Overall, people of working age with disabilities currently have both a lower labor force participation rate (53%) and a higher unemployment rate (9.4%) than people without a disability (83% and 4.9%, respectively). This comes from the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (4430.0) from 2016.
The current trend is downward and employment rates for people with disabilities are falling. The Australian Productivity Commission’s 2017 report shows that the number of people with disabilities in employment has fallen by around 6% and the group’s unemployment rate has deteriorated by 3% since 2009.
What are the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce?
With full access to the hiring process, employers can reach more highly qualified applicants, reduce the possibility of discrimination based on disability in the hiring process, present a positive and inclusive organizational culture, and help diversify the workforce.
For some employers with a strong customer focus, having a diverse workforce that reflects their customers and the wider community means they can better understand their customers’ experience and improve service delivery. It has also been shown to increase work ethic and productivity. The business benefits of hiring people with disabilities are set out in a report by the Australian Network for Disabilities. (https://www.and.org.au/pages/business-benefits-of-hiring-people-with-a-disability.html)
In addition, a 2002 study by Deakin University found that workers with disabilities are no more injured than other workers and that there are no differences in performance and productivity. It was also found that employees with disabilities actually have fewer scheduled absences than employees without disabilities and that the Australian government-funded Employment Assistance Fund continues to provide assistance with the cost of workplace adjustments.
In principle, the same employment principles apply to people with disabilities as to people without disabilities. What skills, talents and abilities can the person bring to the workplace?
What can HR do to ensure that their hiring strategy does not exclude people with disabilities?
The Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, education, the provision of goods and services, and other contexts. Equally important, an inaccessible recruiting strategy prevents some talented individuals from being considered for a position when forms, processes, and procedures are inaccessible.
It is therefore important to ensure that your job postings, job descriptions, online application forms, timesheets, and compliance documents such as: For example, a social media policy that is accessible to screen readers with visual impairments (with legacy text and a phone option) offers flexibility for the deaf and hard of hearing (subtitles in videos and also options for a phone number only) as well as for those with a cognitive disability or English as a second language (not too much jargon or complicated language).
Proponents of nonprofit digital access, Media Access Australia, have compiled a new digital hiring accessibility guide to provide practical advice and tips on how to resolve HR management accessible issues. It can be downloaded for free here.
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