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Connexus : Issue 38
PEOPLE 54 Connexus www.abacus.org.au E mployers and government agencies can do more to find jobs for people w ith disabilities, according to the Australian Human Resources Institute. There has been “very little, if any, real progress” in improving the employment prospects of people with disabilities, says AHRI national president, Peter Wilson. This is despite significant investment from the federal government’s Building Australia’s Future workforce initiative, which was designed to improve services in general and boost participation, particularly for the 800,000 people currently draw ing a disability support pension. “Many of those Australians on welfare are capable of and would prefer to take advantage of the dignity of work,” w rites AHRI CEO Serge Sardo in a report, Recruiting people with a disability: An employer perspective. “They want to contribute to their own and the nation’s prosperity, but continue to enjoy little success in their attempts to find suitable work in the job market.” Sardo says the government’s initiatives are supported by major employer groups, trade unions and AHRI. However, the survey shows that misconceptions still exist among some employers. Of the organisations surveyed that had never employed a person with a disability, more than three quarters (85 per cent) reported that their employees believed that people w ith a disability were “high risk”. Almost as many (81 per cent) believed they didn’t “perform as well” as other employees. The survey also found that many employers (54 per cent) were unaware of the range of programs offered by Disability Employment Services (DES) to assist with recruitment, and just over a third (39 per cent) were unaware of any benefits to employers. On the upside, one third of organisations (33 per cent) that had employed a person with a disability did so because of a commitment to a culture of social responsibility and diversity. Almost one-quarter (23 per cent) said they’d been approached by a DES provider, and one in 10 responded to a suggestion from an internal HR department, although fewer than 4 per cent made the appointment to reach a diversity target. Advocates within organisations said they often faced internal battles over employing people with disabilities, which prompted many calls for better communication from government and employment agencies to support and encourage management level acceptance w ithin organisations. The challenge is to raise the level of community awareness so that service providers and advocates w ithin businesses can work together to improve job prospects for everyone. “As important as it undoubtedly is to boost the supply side of the equation by maximising the job-readiness of job seekers, it is equally critical to give attention to the demand side, there being little point in having a job-ready army of job seekers if employers are not engaged in the process and are therefore not disposed to hire,” Sardo says. Restoring dignity Negative attitudes and poor communication are preventing people with disabilities from being employed. Disability Employment Services Disability Employment Services is a national network of community and private organisations that provide free support to employers of people with disabilities. Support includes: • professional recruitment advice • on-the-job or off-site support to ensure new employees with disabilities settle into their jobs • help with job design • help to develop job descriptions • training information and awareness-raising activities for co-workers • access to work experience placements • assistance if an employee’s job is at risk due to issues related to their disability • financial support to help with wages; workplace modifications and adjustments; Auslan interpreting and co-worker training For more information go to www.jobaccess.gov.au or www.jobsearch.gov.au or phone 1800 464 800