Not everyone is made equal and with equal resources and opportunity, two different people would achieve different results. Still, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t treat everyone equally and that we shouldn’t provide everyone with equal opportunity. You see, there are some people with disabilities (by birth or through an illness/accident) that prevent them from performing certain tasks. On the other hand, completely ignoring this massive workforce pool can make you miss out on some incredible talent. All in all, you need to come up with a way to make people with disabilities fit into your organization and ensure that they’re treated with respect, like everyone else. Needless to say, this is the role of your HR and here are several tips to help them out.
1. The benefits
In the introduction, we’ve mentioned the fact that hiring people with disabilities has numerous benefits. First of all, it increases your hiring pool. Second, the inclusivity makes for the friendlier work environment, which has a positive impact on talent retention. Other than enhanced staff morale, enhancing diversity in the workplace offers you completely new and unique angles when it comes to creativity and problem-solving capacities of your team.
2. Essential vs. marginal jobs
One of the first questions that you need to answer when it comes to hiring new people is the question of whether you should hire them on essential or marginal jobs. Seeing as to how marginal jobs are often specialized and require a specific set of characteristics, there are some instances in which employees with disabilities are unable to perform these functions properly. In order to answer this question, you first need to clearly define essential and marginal jobs.
3. Special accommodation
Perhaps the biggest consideration that you have to make is whether you should make some additional accommodations in order to help your employees complete the job. You see having reasonable accommodation at the workplace is not a privilege, it is a basic right guaranteed by the law. This consists of making existing facilities usable by disabled employees, providing a reasonable amount of additional unpaid leave (for the sake of medical treatment) and even restructuring jobs. This last part can often be seen in more flexible work hours (for instance, a four-day ten-hour work week, so that the person with a disability can have their medical treatment). It is the role of HR to take care of these things.
4. The legal background
Another step that you have to take is ensuring that everything is done according to the law. In other words, it needs to abide by the NDIS practice standards which can be used as a guide and make sure to check with one’s local laws. You start out by covering rights and responsibilities for each participant. After this, you get to think about the supplementary modules, like those that are supposed to cover specialist behavior support, specialized coordination and high intensity daily personal activity. All of these rules are governed and mandated by law, which is why ignoring them is both harmful and illegal.
Another thing you need to think about is compensation for your employees. There are some employers who use legal loopholes in order to pay employees with disabilities less than minimum wage. This is possible only in a scenario where the disability in question reduces an employee’s ability to do the job. However, it is far more humane and better for morale (and productivity) if you were to transfer them to a post where their disability will not be an obstacle. Also, keep in mind that making a profit at any cost may hurt you more in the long run.
6. Education of your team
The next thing you need to focus on is the way in which your team works with disabled employees as a part of your manpower. This is one of the key steps in making the workplace disabled-friendly. Moreover, it is one of the key responsibilities of your HR department. Three main goals are to teach your staff that they shouldn’t perceive their counterparts any differently. Second, it needs to explain to them that just because they are sometimes asked to provide assistance, they shouldn’t be too pushy when they come to actually offer assistance. The key lies in good communication.
7. Knowing their rights
Maybe the biggest challenge that a lot of disabled employees are facing in the workplace stems from the fact that they don’t fully know or understand their rights. Sure, one might argue that it’s a duty of every individual to fight for their own rights, it is far more effective (not to mention ethical), if your HR was to instruct them on these matters. This way, you gain valuable allies to help you fight for this just cause of integrating disabled employees into your organization. It allows you to promote diversity, avoid bias and make your business truly future-proof.
One last thing you need to be aware of is the fact that when it comes to workplace discrimination, one’s disability is the third biggest reason (just after retaliation and sex). This is why your HR needs to be extra vigilant when it comes to treating people with disabilities equally. You also need to put extra effort into raising awareness and promoting hostility-free workspace. Seeing as how this is one of the primary roles of HR, to begin with, all you have to do now is realize that, due to the growing number of your staff members with disabilities, there has never been more need for this than today.
At the end of the day, you need to understand that ignoring a massive demographic that consists of people with disabilities as a workforce is a massive missed opportunity for every enterprise. Due to the fact that you get numerous benefits from employing them, as well as the fact that hiring and integrating these employees is easier than ever before. This makes it into an opportunity that you can’t afford to miss out on. Still, it may put the prowess of your HR team to a test. In the end, all the extra effort will be seen as more than worth it.