Disability employment way forward for SMEs hit by skills shortages

23 January 2023

a woman holding a coffee cup and smiling while looking at a laptop screen.

According to a report by NAB, four in 10 small to medium enterprises (SMEs) say labour shortages are having a very significant impact on their business.

Roughly one in three SMEs say they expect the impact to remain substantial over the next 12 months – a worrying sign as the school holidays are in full swing.

However, the team at the Australian Government's disability employment hub JobAccess, believe that this is an opportunity for SMEs to select candidates from a wider talent pool.

SMEs uniquely placed to become diversity leaders

JobAccess General Manager, Daniel Valiente Riedl, says SMEs have advantages compared to larger organisations. This puts SMEs in a perfect position to become diversity leaders in the workplace.

“SMEs have a unique opportunity to take the lead in diversifying their workforce. Their small size and simpler structure give them greater capacity to make changes, especially when immediate action is required. This includes simple but important changes to recruitment processes and potential workplace adjustments to support people with disability,” Daniel said.

As SMEs usually are more nimble, they can disseminate information around inclusivity much more quickly and effectively than their larger counterparts, something that can support the swift integration of workers with disability.

“As SMEs employ fewer people compared to larger organisations, it is much easier to get everyone up to speed on the best ways to support colleagues with disability. Supports like disability and awareness training can be much more effective with a smaller team,” he said.

How can JobAccess support

JobAccess has a range of tools and services available to support SMEs to make the most of their natural advantages and become confident diversity leaders.

The Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) provides financial help to people with disability and mental health conditions and employers' assistance to buy work-related modification equipment for those who meet the criteria.

This includes a free workplace assessment to help work out what modifications or equipment will best meet the employee's needs.

For employers who want to implement changes or make adjustments, JobAccess' Employer Toolkit is a fantastic resource designed for time-poor professionals to support their disability confidence. It is free and on-demand, so employers can access it anytime.

Finding the right fit

Many have gone on to share their own stories in the hope of encouraging others to take similar steps.

BindiMaps, is a mobile app specifically designed to help people with vision impairment to navigate indoor and outdoor public places with ease. It is one organisation which shared its story.

BindiMaps employed Cassandra Embling as a Customer Success Representative – a role well-suited to her outgoing personality.

Cassandra has been blind from a young age and requires adjustments in the workplace. BindiMaps lodged an application through JobAccess for the EAF. They obtained the vital equipment Cassandra needed to do her job, including a screen reader and a braille display for proofreading a Bluetooth keyboard.

There was minimal turnaround time from lodging the application, to making the supports available for Cassandra in the workplace. This gave her more time to do a job she loves. Cassandra’s employer has only good things to say about her contribution.

“Having Cassandra onboard has meant the world to us. She has a friendly personality and is well suited to her role,” Said BindiMap’s Chief Operating Officer Mladen Jovanovic,

“In a start-up environment, once you launch the product, it’s easy for the feedback loop to fall to the wayside as the business starts to focus on more important things. With Cassandra helping us to go out to meet and engage one-on-one with our customers and collect feedback, it has allowed us to implement changes we did not know about,” he said.

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