The Disability Confidence Survey Report reflects a positive shift in disability awareness levels among small to medium enterprises, but concerns remain that this increased awareness is not translating into positive action for people with disability.
The survey is operated by the Australian Network on Disability (AND), and gathers responses from 500 small and medium businesses with the aim of assessing their awareness and inclusion of people with disability.
AND CEO Suzanne Colbert said the level of inclusion of people with disability has increased since last year’s inaugural survey, as has the level of staff morale.
“Almost 90% of the businesses who were employing people with disability experienced a positive business benefit that directly related to business outcomes or staff morale,” said Ms Colbert, in a note accompanying the report.
But amidst the number promising developments exist gaps and opportunities that remain unrealised.
“While people are willing to engage and are open to being inclusive, they don’t know what to do or what changes are required. The current approach is passive with many indicating they wait until they are asked before taking action,” said Ms Colbert.
While just over half (55%) or respondents said they were aware their organisation employs a colleague with a disability, just 20% were sure of their organisation’s attitude towards hiring people with disability.
Ms Colbert also reiterated that driving change needs to come from the top-down across businesses.
“Senior leaders need to continue to communicate their organisation’s desire to employ people with disability, and their preparedness to make changes to accommodate people with disability as customers to ensure the message is received by all staff,” said Ms Colbert.
The survey found small businesses in particular struggle with inclusion and awareness; both in terms of customers and potential staff. Small businesses are less likely to see the relevance of attracting job applicants with disability to their organisation, and few are planning to make changes to accommodate customers with disability.
EPIC Assist CEO Bill Gamack weighed into the survey findings, saying businesses who do not consider disability could be missing out in a big way.
“Organisations who take a passive approach to disability awareness and workplace inclusion are at risk of missing out on exceptional staff. Disability is not an indication of skill or job suitability, and a positive attitude towards hiring staff with disability can result in significant rewards,” said Mr Gamack.
“Disability-confident businesses achieve improvements to their staff retention, brand and reputation, procurement and tender competitiveness, customer service, and workplace culture; all of which lead to an improved bottom-line.”
Mr Gamack acknowledges that it’s not always easy for businesses to take the first step, but help exists for those ready to realise what’s possible.
“Finding an experienced partner in recruitment services can be the first step towards improving workplace inclusion. With education and support, businesses quickly discover the advantages of tapping into this hidden talent pool.”
EPIC Assist (EPIC) has 25 years’ experience in the disability sector. We work closely with employers, taking the time to understand their business and its unique needs. We then identify an effective solution that meets those needs, leading to sustainable employment. EPIC also provides disability awareness training for staff and hiring managers, designed to build a disability confident culture within your organisation.