Employers urged to act now on disability employment ahead of busy holiday season

19 October 2022

Two people working at a cafe smiling at the camera.
Image: Two people working at a cafe smiling at the camera.

The ongoing skills shortage could hit Australian businesses hard as they prepare for a busy holiday season.

JobAccess’ General Manager, Daniel Valiente-Riedl, said that it is the perfect time for employers to increase their disability confidence and hire from a broader talent pool. This includes one in five Australians who live with disability.

Labour shortage concerns are particularly high within the hospitality and retail industries, with many businesses in seasonal sectors still recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

Time for employers to take positive action

“The Christmas period can be particularly challenging, especially when it comes to staffing,” Valiente-Riedl said.

“The skills shortage has only heightened these challenges, making it even more imperative for businesses to act now,” he adds.

“JobAccess has already been working with employers to increase their disability confidence, with many businesses aware of the vast talent pool available to them.

However, we’re still seeing a lack of confidence from some employers, which is a shame and a missed opportunity. Research shows that people with disability are productive, safe, and reliable in the workplace, reaping long-term rewards of higher retention, cost savings and innovation for employers.

Workers with disability also often possess unique skills, experience and viewpoints that benefit both employers and the teams they work with.”

A missed opportunity

In recent months, the shortage of skilled workers has been well documented, with unions, employers, workers and the Government coming together at the Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra.

While the Summit raised the issues facing Australian employers, it did highlight that people with disability continue to be overlooked by employers.

Despite the shortage, the unemployment rate for people with disability is more than double that of working age people without disability. The employment rate for working-age people with disability has remained relatively unchanged for decades.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 88 per cent of employed people with disability do not require additional support from their employer to complete their job duties safely and productively.

Opening more doors to people with disability

Every day, JobAccess’ National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC) works with large organisations to increase their disability confidence.

This includes developing workplace practices and policies to accommodate people with disability, providing employers with a comprehensive job vacancy service and carrying out workplace training and employer seminars on disability awareness.

JobAccess’ Employer Toolkit is a free, self-learning resource designed to support disability employment initiatives for small and medium employers. Short video lessons and downloadable resources in the Toolkit equip SMEs to hire people with disability and take the right steps to support them in the workplace.

Workplace adjustments: a powerful asset

Recent research by JobAccess reveals that 70 per cent of Australians have not heard of workplace adjustments. It is of the most effective ways to enable people with disability to gain and retain employment.

“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,” says Valiente-Riedl.

“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),” he adds.

The EAF can provide eligible people with disability funding for physical modifications to a workplace, assistive technologies, Auslan interpreting, awareness training, and specialist support services.

JobAccess has managed over 60,000 applications for workplace modifications, support, and training since 2006. Over 90 per cent of employers have said employees became more productive after adjustments funded through JobAccess are implemented.

Supporting Australia Post’s seasonal recruitment drive

Australia Post is one of the country’s most prolific seasonal employers. As a JobAccess Alumni partner, Australia Post knows the difference the right support can make.

The organisation benefitted from disability-confident advice and support through a 12-month partnership with the NDRC to increase their disability confidence and tap into a wider talent pool, which is especially critical during busy periods.

JobAccess helped develop Australia Post’s Accessibility and Inclusion plan to make the organisation accessible to everyone.

One of the many changes included giving candidates the option to tell Australia Post that they are a person with disability during the application process.

This now triggers a phone conversation with the candidate to find out if they need any adjustments to be successful through the assessment process, interview and onboarding.

In 2021, during the biggest recruitment drive in its history, Australia Post held a webinar in collaboration with the NDRC to encourage Disability Employment Service (DES) participants to apply for thousands of available positions.

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