New research by JobAccess has revealed that Australian employers are missing out on a significant opportunity to broaden their staff and future-proof their workplace.
JobAccess is the national hub for disability and employment information. According to its recently released data, 70 per cent of Australians have not heard of workplace adjustments, which it identifies as one of the most effective ways to enable people with disability to gain and retain employment.
Workplace adjustments are administrative, environmental or procedural changes to a workplace that enable people with disabilities to work efficiently and comfortably. One adjustment which has been in the spotlight lately has been working from home, however this is only the tip of the ice berg in terms of what adjustments are possible.
Daniel Valiente-Riedl, General Manager of JobAccess, said: “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] are a powerful asset when building truly inclusive and accessible workplaces.
“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.”
The JobAccess research suggests that the issue is a lack of knowledge and awareness, with a majority of Australians recognising that living with disability makes it harder to find a job, and 77 per cent agreeing that young people with disability deserve extra support in getting their first job. The research also indicated that awareness was low not only amongst the general population, but among those living with disability too.
“When a person with disability requires adjustments, they might not even know that they could ask for them or that support to arrange them is available,” said Valiente-Riedl.
“That could mean they miss out on an opportunity and an employer misses out on a productive, skilled employee because of this lack of knowledge.”
One in five respondents to the JobAccess research survey believe that it would be hard to implement workplace adjustments, and two in five estimate it would be a costly exercise, with most respondents thinking that employers carry these costs alone. However, Valiente-Riedl said these ideas are incorrect.
“The assumption often is that workplace adjustments are difficult and expensive to implement,” he said.
“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.”
Such workplace changes that the EAF can provide funding for include physical modifications to a workplace, assistive technologies, Auslan interpreting, awareness training, and specialist support services.
JobAccess said making changes for staff living with disability also impacts the whole workplace in a positive way. It notes that 90 per cent of employers say employees became more productive after the adjustments were implemented.
“These changes can also benefit other workers. In fact, while 17 per cent of Australians in our research identified as living with disability, twice that number believe they have benefited from a workplace adjustment,” said Valiente-Riedl.
“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.”
Employers looking to increase their disability confidence can access a wide range of support. Visit the JobAccess website and Employer Toolkit, or call 1800 464 800 to speak to a professional advisor.