Work needed to tap talent pool of people with disabilities

WA has made little progress in closing the employment gap faced by people living with disabilities, despite strong evidence that doing so has myriad economic benefits such as increased profits, staff satisfaction and customer loyalty, a new report by CCIWA shows. 

The report, Tapping the Talent Pool of People with Disabilities, found discrimination and a lack of knowledge about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities was driving the lack of progress. 

The report found almost 61% of WA businesses surveyed said they had made “little to no progress” in increasing the number of staff with disabilities.  

READ THE REPORT: Tapping the talent pool of people with disabilities 

CCIWA Chief Executive Chris Rodwell says the report reveals many businesses want to hire people with disabilities but face significant barriers.  

“Improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” he says.

“Many businesses told us they simply lack the confidence to hire people with disabilities and there are a significant number of misconceptions about what’s actually involved.” 

The report found: 

  • The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than double the rest of the population, and four times higher for people with intellectual disabilities. 
  • Discrimination and a lack of confidence, knowledge and training are blamed for the shortfall. 
  • The report highlights well-established economic benefits of hiring people with disabilities, including increased profits, staff satisfaction and customer loyalty. 

According to a 2018 study by Accenture, companies that excel in disability inclusion are 28% more profitable than those that do not prioritise inclusivity. A report from Safe Work Australia also found the cost to businesses from absenteeism or sick leave was 34% lower for employees with disabilities compared with those who are not disabled.  

The CCIWA report found small and medium-sized businesses faced the most difficulties in attracting and retaining people with disabilities. Some businesses cited a lack of applicants with disabilities as one factor contributing to the lack of progress, suggesting more work is needed to give people with disabilities more confidence to enter the workforce. 

Only 60% of WA businesses employ people with disabilities – the lowest of any underrepresented or minority group in the labour market. 

“Some may think hiring people with different needs will require them to make complicated modifications to their work practices but in reality, this is often not the case,” Rodwell says. 

“There’s also a lack of support for employers who do hire people with disabilities and very little education or training for those who want to be more inclusive but don’t know where to begin.” 

Workplace diversity ‘encourages innovation’ 

Ryan Martin, Associate Director, HR and Workplace Relations, says valuing workplace diversity enables West Australian businesses to not only reflect their local communities, but also encourages innovation through embracing distinct perspectives, and supports organisational performance. 

“Our team of HR consultants can help you to develop and implement strategies and action plans to enable your organisation to be more inclusive,” he says. 

“We assist employers by reviewing existing processes, practices, and documentation to identify barriers to inclusion and work with you to implement meaningful cultural change to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace that align with your organisational goals.” 

Rodwell, who is also the parent of two children with disabilities, said the economic and social dividends of boosting disability employment are far-reaching. 

“It’s not just the individual and their employer who benefit, there’s a flow-on through to that person’s family, friends, carers and community, whether that’s through providing respite from caring duties, allowing family carers to enter paid work themselves or by boosting the person’s overall wellbeing,” he says.

Discrimination a barrier for applicants 

The report highlights discrimination in the workplace as one reason people with disabilities do not apply for jobs.  

The report also recommends changes to the disability support pension, which sees recipients lose 50 cents of every dollar they earn above $204 per fortnight. 

“There are a range of things governments can do to make it easier for both the employer and the disabled employee,” Rodwell says.

“Ultimately, it comes down to a shift in our overall attitudes towards people with disabilities. 

“They are valuable, diverse, and capable of making a real contribution across the economy and are a significant untapped resource in our labour market.”

For more information on developing and implementing strategies for a more inclusive workplace contact CCIWA’s Workplace Relations team on (08) 9365 7746 or via [email protected].

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