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People with disability: employer concerns

Those persistent views have been analysed by a team of professors who’ve scrutinised every reliable study in recent years that asked managers to explain why they were reticent to hire people with disability. The scholars explored the entire employment life cycle – from the initial job hunting stage to the time employees leave the organisation – with the intention of finding a common theme. Many job candidates conceal their disabilities out of a belief it will impact their recruitment. Credit: Arsineh HouspianIt didn’t take long to find that theme. In short, there’s a common perception among employers that they need to be excessively accommodating. As has now been published in the Journal of Business and Psychology, that reluctance to accommodate is evident in various ways.

Let’s begin with recruitment where managers frequently under-report the total number of job applicants with a disability. Or so they think. Whilst it’s true a majority of disabilities are invisible and therefore not obvious, it’s also the case many candidates intentionally conceal their disability because they believe decision-makers will recruit others who don’t need to be accommodated.

The researchers draw special attention to the Australian Network on Disability for their work educating business leaders on how to become “disability confident” such that they learn to appreciate workplace adjustments aren’t as inconvenient as they fear.

That’s a pertinent point for small business owners who apparently find the experience of hiring people with disability difficult since they feel they don’t have sufficient resources available to accommodate their requirements. A few tips for approaching your manager when making the request to work from home.

They probably don’t realise that, among the accommodations most favoured by people with disability, is greater flexibility with the hours they work. Pretty much like everyone else. Uninformed by how straightforward it can be to put in place these types of adjustments, they prematurely give up (or don’t bother trying).

In a sense, they pass the baton to government departments where people with a disability most often prefer to work due to “better health benefits, more accommodations, and a lower likelihood of discriminatory employment practices”.

Many managers are likewise unaware of how inexpensive it can actually be, with the professors revealing that “beliefs and apprehensions around accommodation costs are frequently overstated”. The majority, for instance, do not cost a cent. Most of the rest is a few hundred dollars, all of which is recouped (and then some) via double-digit improvements in productivity.

That word – productivity – is viewed cynically by many managers who consider employees with a disability to have “performance issues, such as slowing down work, higher absenteeism, lateness, or simply being less dedicated or dependable … In other words, employees with disabilities are sometimes perceived by managers as problem employees [who] need assistance, need more supervision or need too much training.”

The problem isn’t the employee but the work environment, and the fact there isn’t any credible research proving those harsh assertions.

The opposite is a more accurate reflection of reality, with numerous studies serving as evidence that employers, despite initially recruiting people with disability as a “charitable act”, are surprised to discover they do indeed have high levels of performance, punctuality and loyalty.

So long as the right accommodations are in place. When they’re missing, it’s unreasonable to expect employees with a disability to give their best. It’s unreasonable, really, for any employee to give their best in such circumstances, irrespective of whether they have a disability.

By offering supportive employment practices for everyone and not just a few, it’s possible to embrace genuine diversity, “thereby attracting and retaining talented workers who might otherwise exit the workforce”.

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