When compared with other OECD countries, Australia ranks 21st out of 29 countries when it comes to workforce participation for people with disability.
But employing people with disability doesn’t need to be expensive or hard – and it could prove to be one of the best decisions your organisation ever makes.
In this guest post, Tom Baxter, CEO of not-for-profit job agency Ostara Australia, provides practical advice for organisations that want to take the first steps towards welcoming employees with disability into their organisation.
In December, I contributed a guest post to the Not-For-Profit People Blog highlighting the benefits of hiring people with a disability – both to an organisation and to the people employed.
But what now? How do you go about finding the right person to fit a vacancy, and preparing the workplace for their arrival? And how do you then make the arrangement work in a sustainable way?
It’s easier than you might think. Since my last post the team at Ostara Australia has engaged with a number of organisations that were considering questions just like these. And we worked successfully with those employers to support them through the process of employing people with disabilities.
Your own organisation, having followed these same simple steps, will be greatly rewarded with a fully engaged, committed employee who brings a unique perspective and set of skills to the workplace.
1. Finding the right job match
People living with a disability have as wide a range of skills and expertise as those without. So choosing the right job to match with a person with a disability is much the same as looking at any other vacancy. What are the skills required to do the role? What are its KPIs?
While some roles may not be suited to people with certain types of disabilities, there may be others who match it perfectly.
2. Engage with a Disability Employment Services (DES) provider
DES providers exist to provide government-funded, tailored support to employers looking to hire a person or people with a disability.
They can help you work through the process of finding suitable candidates for your job vacancies, organise training and provide support. They can also help your organisation apply for wage subsidies and financial assistance to make any necessary adjustments to the workplace, if required.
3. Advertising and interviewing
Your DES provider will have access to a database of job-ready candidates. However, if no one is suitable, work with them to advertise your job vacancy through networks that specialise in working with people with a disability.
Once you have a shortlist and it’s time for interviews, remember to choose a location that is accessible. Ask your candidates if they have any special requirements with regards to access or communication. Ask yourself how you can make their visit as stress-free and friendly as possible, while also keeping the meeting professional.
4. Create a disability-friendly workplace
Any adjustments that need to be made will depend on the specifics of a person’s disability. Most modifications involving work stations (including computers), office equipment and work systems are simpler and easier than they might’ve been several years ago. If modifications are necessary, you may be eligible for financial assistance to make the changes from the federal government’s Employment Assistance Fund.
5. Staff training
For you and your employee to achieve the very best results, and create the most productive workplace possible, it’s best to have a team that’s aware of the unique challenges faced by a person with a disability.
In fact, some staff might find the idea of working with a person with a disability confronting – not out of discrimination, but simply because they haven’t had a great deal of contact with a person living with a disability.
Disability training provides your staff with facts about disabilities, along with tips on working with a person with a disability, including communication and workplace accommodation. Disability Employment Service providers can arrange training and assistance for organisations, free of charge.
6. Legal requirements
All organisations must comply with laws that make it unlawful to discriminate against someone on any basis – including disability.
Employing someone with a disability should therefore bring no extra burdens or complications in relation to complying with these laws, as long as employers ensure they have robust policies and procedures on equal opportunity.
Remember, it is not unlawful to provide people with a disability special services, facilities or opportunities to meet their needs in employment. So workplace modifications are not considered discriminatory.
7. Ongoing support
Ensure you have selected a DES provider who will actively provide ongoing support. Here at Ostara Australia, for example, a dedicated employment consultant works with the new employee to help them settle into the role and make any necessary adjustments to ensure the employee does the job effectively.
DES providers can also link the employee in with community and welfare organisations that support them with other issues they may be dealing with, such as mental, emotional or cultural issues.
You can find a searchable database of DES providers here.
Does your organisation successfully include people with disability in its workforce? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.