Myths about disability

Higher insurance and safety costs

A common misconception is that workers compensation costs will increase due to hiring people with disability and that people with disability will have more accidents at work.

This is definitely not the case. Whether an employer employs people with disability is irrelevant to the calculation of such premiums. Premiums are based on accidents at work and not the characteristics of particular groups of employees. There is no proof that employees with disability are more susceptible to workplace injury than others.

In fact, research suggests that people with disability can have fewer accidents at work. The workers compensation costs for people with disability can be as low as four per cent of the workers compensation costs of other employees (Graffam et al 1999). 

Lower productivity

Some employers argue that it is not financially viable for them to hire people with disability as they work too slowly. But the reality is that most people with disability work at productivity levels equivalent to other employees and receive full wages. 

People whose productivity is significantly reduced as a result of disability may consider the Supported Wage System. With the Supported Wage System, eligible people with disability can access a reliable process of productivity-based wage assessment to determine fair pay for fair work. If a person is assessed as having a work productivity rate of 70 per cent, the employer may pay 70 per cent of the full award wage. 

People with disability will not fit in

It is common to hear employers say that hiring a person with disability will ‘not work’ as customers will complain or the person will not 'fit in' with co-workers. Neither statement is true. In most cases customer and co-worker acceptance comes with awareness and observing that workers with disability are competent and efficient in their jobs.

People with disability make up 20 per cent of the Australian population and the likelihood of customers and co-workers having a relative or friend with disability is high. Employer initiatives in hiring people with disability can have positive bottom line results, increased staff morale and community recognition as good corporate citizens.

Basic jobs only

Employers may have a misconception that people with disability can only work in simple or base grade jobs. This is not the case as people with disability work across occupations, including in apprenticeships and traineeships, and at all levels of competency:

  • 19 per cent of employees with disability work in professional occupations
  • 15 per cent of employees with disability are clerical sales and administrative workers
  • 15 per cent of employees with disability are technicians and trade workers (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009).

Higher absenteeism

Employers may be concerned that job seekers with disability will have higher absenteeism including taking more sick leave.

Disability should not be perceived as sickness. Most people with disability are not perpetually sick and do not need or take more time off work than anyone else due to illness.

Research has revealed up to 39 per cent lower absenteeism and use of sick leave among staff with disability when compared with other employees (Graffam et al 2002).

Higher employment and training costs

Many employers wrongly believe that it is more expensive to hire and train a person with disability. There are usually no extra costs at all. In fact, the costs of hiring people with disability can be significantly lower than hiring other employees, as low as 13 per cent of the cost of the other employees (Graffam et al 2002).

References

Graffam J, Shinkfield A, Smith K and Polzin, U 2002, ‘Employer benefits and costs of employing a person with a disability’, Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, vol. 17, pp. 251-263.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Australian Social Trends, March Quarter 2012 (4102.0)

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