Workplace attitudes prevent employment of people with disabilities

A summary of the findings

Of the survey respondents in the study whose organisations had never employed a person with a disability, 85 per cent reported the perception either that their fellow employees believe that employees with a disability are likely to be high risk and expensive or they reserve judgement on the matter. Of the same sample group, 81 per cent reported the perception that employees with a disability do not perform as well as other employees or they reserve judgement on the matter. Of the same group, 75 per cent reported that those negative perceptions create uncertainty, have some influence or are a major barrier to their organisation employing a person with a disability.

Other findings of the study, comprising a respondent sample of 678 HR professionals, include the following:

Of respondents whose organisations had employed a person with a disability, 15 per cent reported being given no supportive information by Disability Employment Service (DES) providers and 10 per cent reported that candidates did not match the employers’ job description.

While nearly half of the same sample group (42 per cent) reported DES providers were marginally more or far more responsive than mainstream recruitment providers, nearly one in five (19 per cent) reported that DES providers were far less or marginally less responsive than their mainstream counterparts.

A third of the sample group that had employed a person with a disability reported being prompted by the organisation’s strong social responsibility and diversity focus, and nearly a quarter reported being prompted by an approach from a DES provider.

Of the sample that had not employed a person with a disability, 54 per cent reported not knowing about the services available, 39 per cent reported not knowing about any benefits to employers and 46 per cent reported never having thought about it so it’s never been on their radar.

The qualitative data in the report includes refrains about the critical importance of providers fitting the applicant to the job description, being upfront about the applicant’s disability and following through with promises of assistance. The comments also include observations such as “never heard of it (DES)” or “didn’t know about it”. In addition, a number of remarks were made about needing more communication from agencies so that there is “more acceptance at management level” and that internal advocates feel stranded fighting “significant internal marketing” issues to gain organisational acceptance at CEO, executive, line management and co-worker levels.

The study was initiated by the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) which circulated a survey questionnaire online to its database during July and August.

The national president of AHRI, Peter Wilson AM, said, “Given the productivity challenges facing the Australian economy and the need to maximise the workforce participation of groups such as the 800,000 people drawing disability support pensions, many of whom are willing and able to engage in productive work, it is a matter of great regret that there continues to be very little, if any, real progress in getting jobs for that cohort of Australians.

“By examining the views of employers that have engaged and not engaged in this key policy area, with many of the latter reporting no knowledge of it, the AHRI study highlights the critical need to adequately market what is a sound policy objective or risk seeing it continue to flounder.

“The survey results indicate that both relevant government agencies and private employers can do a better job on finding jobs for Australians with a disability.”

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