Australia’s 4.37 million people living with disability face huge challenges with employment. According to Disability employment experts atWork Australia, this is depriving businesses of a highly loyal and productive talent pool.
“Hiring a person living with disability shouldn’t be seen as an issue to be overcome, but an opportunity to build stronger teams,” says Debbie Brooks, atWork Australia’s General Manager Partnerships & Stakeholder Engagement.
“Hiring a diverse workforce facilitates different methods of communication, collaboration and leadership to balance out working styles and create a fluid and dynamic culture.”
While diverse workplaces benefit minority groups, businesses also stand to gain with a 2018 study showing that companies which prioritise inclusion achieve on average 28% higher revenue, 30% higher profit margins and double the net income. Additionally, on average, they see staff retention go up by 90%, which allows them to focus on their business and not ‘revolving door’ recruitment.
Don’t assume that a person living with disability can’t complete the same tasks as their peers, advises Ms Brooks.
“As a person living with disability, the worst thing you can do is assume that someone isn’t capable of certain things due to their disability,” Ms Brooks says. “You will be amazed how people can adapt and find new ways to do things.”
Her advice to employers is to create a workplace where the person living with disability feels comfortable to ask for help and can have access to the right technology that can best support them.
“It will allow the person to complete their role to the best of their ability,” she says.
Another misconception about hiring someone living with a disability is that it will be more expensive. Mr Brooks says employers should be aware that this isn’t the case.
“It is clear from research that employing people living with disability costs exactly the same as employing those without,” she says.
“Employers may be eligible for funding through the Australian Government’s Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) which has been implemented to cover the costs of meeting accessibility requirements for eligible persons. This can include buying equipment and accessing services for people living with disability.”
Vivian migrated to Australia with her family in 2019 as a refugee from Iraq. She had completed a Bachelor of Physics in Iraq, but struggled to find work in Australia due to her limited English skills, some physical barriers stemming from the health conditions she lives with, and the difficulty of juggling employment with family life.
She participated in an English course to improve her language and reached out to atWork Australia who helped her with interview preparation. Vivian then successfully found a position at self-cook food delivery company Marley Spoon.
atWork Australia also organised work shoes and clothing before she started and lined up Post Placement Support.
Marley Spoon implemented a refugee/immigrant program that promoted roles specifically for people like Vivian. This initiative means that Vivian and her colleagues are supported in the work environment to learn and succeed. They do not see Vivian’s barriers and are able to accommodate her requirements, allowing her to balance her family life.
“Thank you to atWork Australia for always helping me when I needed it,” Vivian says. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to change my life.”
Diversity creates engagement
Businesses can play an important role in creating an equal and inclusive workplace, and reap significant benefits from hiring people living with disability. Bringing together different minds, backgrounds, experiences, genders and ages brings together different thought processes to solve more complex problems.
By creating a space where all employees have equal access to employment, Australian businesses can access the full talent pool. For more information, visit atworkaustralia.com.au/des.