When human resource companies consult with organisations on human resources matters, it is evident that employing persons with disabilities is the furthest thing from their minds. Instead of exploring ways in which to recruit and integrate disabled people into their organisations, it is far easier to say it’s not possible. Business leaders need to get closer to this topic and gain a deeper understanding of how to create an inclusive organisation. The reluctance to include disabled individuals in recruiting efforts, may be limiting access to a source of talented workers. Employers will be encouraged to become more comfortable with employing disabled people by positively viewing the potential skills contributions that people with disabilities can make.
Disabled individuals are the most marginalised group in South Africa. They make up 7.5% of our population, yet they hold approximately 1% of the jobs in this country. Their situation is further exacerbated by socio-economic factors leaving them dependent on social grants and trapped in poverty.
The South African Government is asking employers to assist in addressing the ignorance, stereotypes and prejudice associated with disability. Therefore organisations need to strategically look at a diverse workforce and capacity planning to create an inclusive environment. This is done through their policies, practices, infrastructure, training and increased awareness that address the barriers of employing people with disabilities.
We must remember that, at any point in a person’s life, there is a possibility of becoming temporarily or permanently disabled. A single road accident or stroke could leave one without a limb or paralysed. One would hope that their employer would still value their talents and accommodate them as best as reasonably possible. The possibility of offering alternative work, reduced work or flexible terms and conditions as part of the organisation’s reasonable accommodation process, could be explored so that workers are not compelled or encouraged to terminate their employment.
It is generally found that disabled people are committed and hard-working employees. They find creative ways to solve problems and have a more positive outlook on life. Also, from a public relations standpoint, hiring disabled workers can create a more positive image for your business. This could, in-turn inspire other companies in your area to follow your lead, eventually creating a more diverse business climate.
By creating an inclusive corporate culture, the heart of the organisation is felt and experienced by employers as well as their clients and suppliers, thereby becoming recognised as a socially responsible employer. Such a culture demonstrates to employees that their employer will take the necessary steps to reasonably accommodate them in the event that they may regrettably become disabled one day. This fosters greater employee engagement, pride in one’s organisation and improved morale. Furthermore, the organisation will be regarded as an employer of choice and therefore attract a wider and more diverse pool of talent.
Another benefit is that the organisation will also be supporting national legislation in terms of Employment Equity (EE), Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and in turn addressing social injustices of the past.
If the disabled person has not worked for a long time or has not had the opportunity to study further, the placement of this person should always be coupled with an intensive training programme. By doing so, employers will benefit from gaining points on the BBBEE scorecard under Employment Equity as well as Skills Development. In addition, when placing a person with a disability on a learnership programme, an organisation can claim up to R100,000 (one hundred thousand Rands) in tax rebates per learner.