People’s views about an organisation are influenced by the people who work there. An organisation’s success may depend on its ability to draw on diverse skills and experience of all people who work there. This includes supporting and celebrating diversity and not seeing ‘different’ as ‘bad’. Disability is often not obvious and is more common than many people think. Most organisations already have disabled people:
- in their workforce,
- as customers,
- as shareholders,
- as suppliers.
The proportion of disabled people in New Zealand who are not in employment has consistently been much higher than for non-disabled people. Rates of disability increase with age and 45% of people aged over 65 have a disability. The financial opportunity cost to New Zealand of this employment and education differential for disabled people has been estimated at around NZ$11.7b. This does not include the value to communities and businesses of being inclusive of all New Zealanders, and the value to individuals from playing a more significant part in their communities through working.
For New Zealand businesses to compete more effectively in a global marketplace, it is important for employers to choose staff from as wide and diverse a pool as possible. Disability knowledge and competence can be a competitive advantage for an organisation, and can assist with getting and keeping customers and employees.
Employer preconceptions about hiring disabled people
Preconceptions are often the major barrier to employment for disabled people. Research was commissioned by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to explore New Zealand employers’ attitudes towards employing people with disabilities, to help overcome barriers to employment. The report found that there appears to be a 'hierarchy’ of disability where the type and severity of the impairment has an impact on employers’ views of the employability of disabled people, regardless of whether the person is perceived as being capable of doing a job or not. It appears that perceptions about how staff, customers and clients might react might be giving employers social permission not to hire disabled people.
Disability Confident Organisations
A disability confident organisation:
- has managers and staff who understand disability and know what people with disability can do
- has managers who know it is important to their organisation to employ people with disability
- has in place inclusive policies and practices
- has plans in place to ensure a diverse workplace
- addresses barriers to employment and promotion for people with disability
- thinks about the needs of people with diability when designing products and services
- thinks about the needs of people with disability when hiring staff
- can attract a wider pool of job applicants
- is more likely to retain talented employees with disability
Disability confidence helps a company to:
- get and keep good staff - understand how disability affects people, their interaction with organisations and their use of technology.
- build better individual relationships with all stakeholders, including customers.
- utilise the benefits of a diverse workforce such as increased innovation.
- One in five working age New Zealanders have some sort of disability so ensuring your workforce reflects the diversity of your customers is good for your reputation and your business.
Successful companies benefit from the significant talents, skills, experiences and resources of disabled people. Disability confident organisations:
- have better access to a motivated talent pool which is:
- reliable – people with disability generally take fewer days off, take less sick leave, are more loyal and stay in jobs longer than other workers
- productive – in the right job with the right support, disabled people perform just as well as other employees
- affordable – recruitment costs are lower, disabled people have fewer ACC incidents and accidents at work in comparison to other employees
- have better access to a diverse customer base
- appeal to investors with corporate social responsibility and sustainability interests
- enjoy significant cost savings and productivity gains through more efficient recruitment, employment and customer processes. Flexible management lets disabled and older people contribute. Many of the adjustments made for disabled people are also needed by other employees, so adopting more flexible employment practices can help your entire workforce
- Improve their image amongst their staff, the community and with customers
Disabled people can contribute billions of dollars to the economy as employees, entrepreneurs and consumers.
Disability confidence can reduce potential legal risks under the Human Rights Act 1993, by helping you better anticipate the needs of disabled employees and customers.
Addressing disability-related exclusion improves social equality. It can also improve economic growth because excluding disabled people from the workplace and marketplace costs society, is a tax burden, and impacts productivity and competitiveness.
Disability confidence means that disabled people are no longer isolated or seen as ‘special’ and it is recognised that they’re an important part of the diversity of society. Being aware of disability perspectives can highlight physical and social barriers in the business environment – from inaccessible buildings to interactions with ill-at-ease colleagues and customers. Disability-confident businesses:
- take a moral stance that reflects society’s changing values
- help improve the lives of disabled people, while creating new markets
- tackle discrimination and exclusion, and create an inclusive business environment.
Professional benefits for managers
Taking a leadership position on disability:
- increases technical skills in change and people management, job design, and accessibility and usability
- helps you recognise and enable human potential
- builds flexible management skills.
Employer Advice Line
If you need help with managing and supporting your staff who have disabilities or health conditions, you can call the Employer Advice Line, a service provided by the Ministry of Social Development, on 0800 805 405. The advice line is free and is available from Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm.