When workplace adjustments aren’t made employers miss out on big opportunities

When workplace adjustments aren’t made employers miss out on big opportunities

by Freya Lucas

April 18, 2022

Workplace adjustments are one of the most effective ways to enable people with disability to gain and retain employment, however 70 per cent of Australians don’t know what they are or how to implement them. 

 

Workplace adjustments include administrative, environmental, or procedural changes to enable people with disability to access employment opportunities and work efficiently and comfortably.

 

New research from JobAccess, a national hub for disability employment information has shown that Australian employers are missing out on a significant opportunity to broaden their workforce and future-proof their workplace which could be easily accommodated through workplace adjustments.

 

“Employers can access a larger pool of candidates for their vacancies. Forward-looking businesses are meeting recruitment challenges by making their workplace accessible and inclusive, and tapping into the diverse skills people with disability have to offer,” General Manager of JobAccess Daniel Valiente-Riedl said.

 

“Not only do they employ people who are productive, safe and reliable, they also draw the long-term benefits of higher retention, cost-savings and innovation.”

 

To support this thinking and to raise awareness JobAccess has launched a new storytelling campaign today as part of the #EmployTheirAbility initiative. The campaign features the stories of Anthony, Ciara and Jamie, and was created inclusively by Taste Creative and Bus Stop Films who employ people with disability behind the scenes.

 

The research showed most Australians recognise that living with disability makes it harder to find a job. Seventy-seven percent agree that young people with disabilities – including mental health conditions – deserve extra support in getting their first job. This suggests the issue is lack of knowledge and awareness.

 

Awareness of workplace adjustments is also low among people with disability, according to the findings.

 

 “A person with disability requiring adjustments may not know that there is support available,” Mr Valiente-Riedl said. “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 survey respondents said it would be hard to implement workplace adjustments, and two in five estimate the cost as “significant”. The majority of Australians think that employers carry the cost of making workplace adjustments alone.

 

 “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),” Mr Valiente-Riedl explained. 

 

“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.”

 

The EAF can provide funding to eligible people with disability for physical modifications to a workplace, assistive technologies, Auslan interpreting, awareness training, and specialist support services. JobAccess has managed over 58,000 applications for workplace modifications, support, and training since 2006, with over 90 per cent of employers saying employees became more productive after the adjustments were implemented.

 

 These changes can also benefit other workers. In fact, while 17 per cent of the respondents surveyed identified as living with disability, twice that number believe they have benefited from a workplace adjustment.

 

Despite these positive effects, Mr Valiente-Riedl says there is still work to be done. 

 

“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 disabilities, meaning that they are lacking a vital tool in their toolboxes.”

 

Hiring a person living with disability, he continued, shouldn’t be seen as an issue to overcome but instead as an opportunity to build a stronger team. 

 

“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,” he said. 

 

For employers looking to increase their disability confidence, there is a wide range of support available. Visit the JobAccess website to view the Employer Toolkit or call 1800 464 800 to speak to a Professional Adviser. 

 

The National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC) is the Employer Engagement service of JobAccess. The NDRC partners with larger employers across Australia to improve their disability confidence through free, tailored 12-month partnerships.

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