Australian businesses missing out on big employment opportunity – latest research

29 March 2022

Australian employers are missing out on a significant opportunity to broaden their workforce and future-proof their workplaces, according to research unveiled by JobAccess, the national hub for disability employment information.

The data reveals that 70 per cent of Australians have not heard of workplace adjustments – one of the most effective ways to enable people with disability to gain and retain employment.

Australia’s COVID-19-driven skills shortage has provided an opportunity for more inclusive employment, said the General Manager of JobAccess Daniel Valiente-Riedl.

“Employers can access a larger pool of candidates for their vacancies. Forward-looking businesses are meeting recruitment challenges by making their workplace accessible and inclusive, and tapping into the diverse skills people with disability have to offer,” Mr Daniel Valiente-Riedl said today.

“Not only do they employ people who are productive, safe and reliable, they also draw the long-term benefits of higher retention, cost-savings and innovation.”

One workplace adjustment which has recently gained a lot of attention is working from home, he said.

“But according to the latest research, general awareness of workplace adjustments is very low, which is concerning considering the existing employment gap, where people with disability are twice as likely to be unemployed as the rest of the population. ”

Workplace adjustments include administrative, environmental, or procedural changes to enable people with disability to access employment opportunities and work efficiently and comfortably.

“They are a powerful asset when building truly inclusive and accessible workplaces,” Valiente-Riedl said.

The research showed most Australians recognise that living with disability makes it harder to find a job. Seventy-seven percent agree that young people with disability - including mental health conditions - deserve extra support in getting their first job. This suggests the issue is lack of knowledge and awareness.

Awareness of workplace adjustments is also low among people with disability, according to the findings.

“A person with disability requiring adjustments may not know that there is support available,” Valiente-Riedl said. “They miss out on an opportunity and an employer misses out on a productive, skilled employee because of this lack of knowledge.”

This is compounded by the finding that one in five respondents believe it would be hard to implement workplace adjustments, and two in five estimate the cost as “significant”. The majority of Australians think that employers carry the cost of making workplace adjustments alone.

“The assumption often is that workplace adjustments are difficult and expensive to implement. But there is support through JobAccess and the Australian Government’s Employment Assistance Fund (EAF). Our internal research shows that half of modifications cost less than $1,000, and that many adjustments can be made at no cost at all, like providing flexible work hours or locations.”

The EAF can provide funding to eligible people with disability for physical modifications to a workplace, assistive technologies, Auslan interpreting, awareness training, and specialist support services. JobAccess has managed over 58,000 applications for workplace modifications, support, and training since 2006, with over 90 per cent of employers saying employees became more productive after the adjustments were implemented.3

“These changes can also benefit other workers. In fact, while 17 per cent of the respondents surveyed identified as living with disability, twice that number believe they have benefited from a workplace adjustment.”

Despite these positive effects, Valiente-Riedl says there is still work to be done. “These survey results present us with an opportunity to educate employers and individuals, so workplace adjustments become business-as-usual. Less than half of managers know how to arrange workplace adjustments for their employees with disability, meaning that they are lacking a vital tool in their toolboxes.”

He concludes, “This knowledge gap is an issue for everyone, not just people with disability, because employers are missing out on a huge talent pool when they don’t provide accessible, inclusive workplaces. It’s well documented that employees with disability have lower rates of absenteeism and staff turnover and fewer workplace injuries than other workers . Hiring a person with disability shouldn’t be seen as an issue to be overcome, but an opportunity to build stronger teams.”

For employers looking to increase their disability confidence, there is a wide range of support available. Visit the JobAccess website to view the Employer Toolkit or call 1800 464 800 to speak to a Professional Adviser. The National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC) is the Employer Engagement service of JobAccess. The NDRC partners with larger employers across Australia to improve their disability confidence through free, tailored 12-month partnerships.

To view results from JobAccess’ national survey on ‘Understanding disability and the Australian workplace’, click here.

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