We’re living in an extraordinary time, with the impact of the epidemic not just raising the cost of living and inflation rates but contributing to the lowest unemployment figures we’ve seen since 1974.
But there is a part of our community who are not reaping the benefits of the jobs boom.
There remain significant barriers for people with a disability to enter the job market and find employment that uses their significant diversity and skills. Many advocates have written about the advantages of employing people with a disability, but employers remain reluctant to embrace their differences or acknowledge the skills and strengths they bring to a business.
The definition of ‘disability’ used for government employment-related purposes is based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers.
“Persons are considered to have a disability if they have a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities.”
The unemployment rate for people with a disability in Australia in 2022 stands at 10 per cent, compared with 4.6 per cent of people without a disability, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
And yet, the concatenation of circumstances over the last few years has given employers an unprecedented opportunity to address labour shortages and at the same time, the unemployment rate of people with a disability.
With the uptake of home-based working during the pandemic, it has been obvious that it is possible to conduct business from a home office effectively. Working from home presents some solutions for people with a disability, and an opportunity to increase their participation rate in employment. For a start, access to an office building and transport can be a big barrier for a person managing a disability. Flexibility in working hours is also a barrier but can be solved by working from home at a pace and at the time that suits the employee.
Working from home means that all accessibility modifications needed by a person with a disability are already in place, and we certainly have the technology to enable home-based work, using cloud technology and VoIP communications.
When it comes to skills and abilities, people with disabilities are just as educated, just as ambitious, often just as experienced and motivated as the rest of the population. Seventeen percent of people who are looking for work and who have a disability have a bachelor’s degree or higher educational qualification.
And, studies have shown people with a disability are just as motivated and productive as those without a disability, and there is a greater level of retention – they are less likely to move on and more likely to be your longest serving employees. Employees with a disability take fewer days off, take less sick leave, and have fewer compensation claims or accidents at work than their non-disabled counterparts.
Employing people with a disability has also been shown to boost workplace morale and enhance teamwork, and strengthen relationships with customers.
Maybe it is time we all stopped to consider how we can improve the culture of our workplaces, access the skilled labour we need, and solve the unemployment inequalities that persist for people with a disability.
Everyone must have access to participate fully in our economy, and our community.