By Ron Maxwell - CEO
With a long history of working in employment services, I've witnessed first-hand the many benefits of employment for people with disability – for both the job seeker and the employer. Recently, we've seen a spate of good news stories about VERTO clients and employers building mutually rewarding partnerships, and it’s something we need to put front and centre.
Disability employment works on so many levels. Employers benefit from a capable, loyal and hard-working team member, and the job seeker from increased confidence, financial independence, and greater self-worth. Despite this, some Australian employers remain reticent to hire people with disability, and the unemployment rate for job seekers with a disability is twice the national average.
Education is key
For me, much of this comes down to misconceptions about how, why and what a business can expect from hiring a person with a disability. Australians with disability make up around 18 per cent of the population, (around 4.3 million people), and of these, one million are working age and employed or looking for employment. It's time to start a conversation, break down some of the misconceptions and focus on the many positive outcomes
A common misconception I hear is that hiring someone with a disability will be expensive. There is often a misunderstanding that it will always involve extensive access modifications, investment in new hardware or software, or a significant change to the workplace. It’s simply not true. Disabilities vary in type and severity, and often require minimal modifications or changes to workplaces that are barely noticeable. Additionally, where modifications are required, employers can often access government funding to make the necessary adjustments.
Employers who are willing to invest just a little time into finding the right employee will reap the rewards. Contrary to another popular misconception, employees with a disability do not need more sick leave than any other employee. In fact, research shows the opposite; employees with a disability take less time off work than those without one. The same research also indicates that people with a disability connect well with customers, boost overall team morale, and perform as well as every other employee. Recently, we asked some of our Disability Employment Services clients what they would say to employers who are thinking about hiring someone with a disability, and you can watch the video here.
It's about finding the right fit
The key when it comes to disability employment, and the reason VERTO has so many success stories, lies in matching the right job seeker with the right employer. It's critical to assess the needs and interests of the job seeker, look at any barriers that may exist, and create an individual plan to overcome them.
Our team, who are disability employment specialists (and more importantly, incredibly passionate about what they do), really focus on this. In fact, last year the team won the Open Employment Award at the National Disability Employment Excellence Awards, after being nominated by a job seeker who found long-term employment and a new passion working at a winery.
Making sure there is a great fit will ensure there is a sustainable and mutually-beneficial relationship. This is important from a business standpoint, and if an employee remains in the job for 12 months, there are also extra financial incentives on offer. Of course, our goal from the start is to place our job seekers with disability in positions where they will work for many years.
Sustainable employment builds self-worth
For individuals, finding long-term employment in a job that matches their interests and abilities will build confidence and a stronger sense of self-worth, as well as contributing to financial independence. Sometimes this is about reskilling; for example, for someone who has worked in a trade but due to an injury or accident now has a physical restriction, it might be about reskilling them to work in admin in the same industry, working in with their existing interests and knowledge, but in a new way.
We work with people on an individual level to find the training and employment solutions that best fit them. It's not about ticking a box; the right employment can be life changing. One recent example that comes to mind is the story of Kerri, who due to her medical conditions, struggled to find employment. We were able to not only match Kerri with a suitable job, but also develop her confidence to succeed at interview and in the workplace more generally. Kerri credits the role with giving her purpose, reducing bill stress, and helping her to be a positive role model for her son. It really is about so much more than just a job.
At the end of the day, ensuring our labour force is inclusive is a great thing, and the many success stories we see day in, day out at VERTO really highlight the benefits. We have many happy employers and job seekers who have both reaped the rewards. We are continuing to focus on educating employers and sharing our good news stories, and I welcome and encourage businesses to contact our Employment Services team to explore this fantastic opportunity.