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The Good, the Not- So- Good and the Inspirational


"The Good, the Not- So- Good and the Inspirational." A survey on Disability in the Workplace as part of diversity in corporate social responsibility.

Three companies nominated as ‘good business eggs’ for top ratings in their policy-making on disability in the workplace, openness to change and innovation, and showing a greater awareness of what could be achieved by improving diversity.

Twenty companies were surveyed by The Stanley East Company in 2013 to gain knowledge on how NZ business directs their approaches to recruiting and retaining staff with disabilities. Businesses included SME’s through to large global corporates to provide a useful snapshot of differing approaches across varied industries, types of companies, and locations.

There are proactive practices whereby international businesses employing disabled people see positive returns.

One example in the USA a report called “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities” focused on the financial benefits. The drugstore chain Walgreens claim they do it not out of charity but for the competitive advantage in employing disabled workers as they are more efficient and loyal than their non-disabled colleagues. Absenteeism is down, staff turnover has reduced, and workplace accidents are fewer.

Finally, as the workforce ages and workers retire at older ages, it is likely that many existing employees may find themselves with an age - related disability, so preparing to be able to retain the services of employees with many years of service and knowledge means businesses can future proof themselves for this.

The results from the survey demonstrate a range of practices and approaches from businesses in New Zealand.

Many of the results fell in to the majority of not-so-good, with a lack of awareness or a blanket policy on recruitment. However some good examples of changing practise was noted as well as some inspirational work in progressive companies who embraced diversity.

The great majority complied with accessible features, for example accessible toilets and wheelchair access etc. Only one company made note of any other features available for people with disabilities aside from wheelchair users, perhaps indicating that for many companies disability is often seen as being connected only to wheelchairs. “We have wheelchair access in all our main office buildings including electric doors, self raising/lowering desks and accessible toilets and bathrooms with some flat showers. Indented numbers in lifts and some lifts in Auckland with voice descriptions of the floor the lift is stopping at.”

90% said they are not proactive in recruiting people who experience disability, the most common response was they did not wish to discriminate, or favour any groups of people, although on many company web sites there were tempting incentives to encourage the take up of graduates…as a special group.


One company actively works with a supported employment organisation to recruit people with disabilities: “Yes, we work closely with Emerge to offer work experience and then look into offering these people contracts with the business. “

Unsurprisingly when asked what a company considered ‘disability’, this provided the biggest diversity in answers.

Three declined to answer, whilst one company was “unsure”. Three referred to disability being purely physical, without any reference to any other possible “hidden” disabilities. One company explained their company’s inspirational point of view, ‘Disability can be both physical and mental i.e. many staff here may have a disability you would never know about. We try to avoid using the word ‘disability’ where possible as we want to make it really clear that disability is just a form of difference and can as often as not be a point of strength not a weakness. This includes both physical differences and mental health differences.’

Somecompanies acknowledged that their knowledge in regards to disability could be improved. “This is certainly an area that is not well addressed in our NZ operations.” And “We’re very open to learning more about how to welcome applicants with disabilities.”

Finally, one company, who has policies and procedures in place, and may be seen as more advanced than some other companies, acknowledged that even they had more to do: “While we are doing a lot of work to encourage the best people of all abilities to apply for roles here we still have a long way to go to truly be the accessible organisation we aspire to be.”

Recommendations:

• Ask what your staff needs, don’t assume. Understand that disability can be not always seen nor needs to be announced.
• Find out what progressive companies are doing and what are the business benefits of employing people with disabililty.
• Get advice for example from Emerge Supported Employment Trust, a free, socially conscious recruitment alternative who build successful relationships with employers by helping them and their staff to support their colleagues with disability.
• Get information from WINZ or Workbridge.

The Inspirational: The Three Good Business Eggs

From the twenty companies, three stood out as Good Business Eggs, we applaud Westpac, CQHotels Wellington and HealthPost for their top ratings in their policy making on disability in the workplace, openness to change and innovation and showing a greater awareness of what could be achieved by improved diversity.

Read the full report on BACS: Business and Community Shares


ENDS

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