Neglecting People with Disabilities Is Bad for Business

Neglecting People with Disabilities Is Bad for Business

On the occasion of the Paralympic Games, which concluded in Rio de Janeiro last week, US News and World Report’s Devon Haynie took a look at the employment situation of people with disabilities around the world. Sadly, the news is not encouraging:

According to most experts, the employment rate of working age people with disabilities in the U.S. has fallen almost continuously since the late 1980s. In 2014, only 34 percent of working age citizens with disabilities were employed – that’s compared to 75 percent of their non-disabled peers. Employment rates are often considered a better measure than unemployment figures, which don’t factor in people who have stopped looking for work. …

Among 29 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the late 2000s, seven had lower employment rates for citizens with disabilities than the U.S., according to a 2010 OECD report with the most recent figures. Hungary, Ireland and Poland have particularly low employment rates for their citizens with disabilities, while the Nordic countries, Mexico and Switzerland have the highest rates. … Low employment rates are concerning for several reasons. As more unemployed people join disability rolls, national budgets feel the pinch. In the U.S., for example, the Social Security’s disability trust fund was set to run out in 2016, and was saved only by temporarily diverting funds from another program. It’s now on track to go bust in 2023.

The lack of employment of people with disabilities is a distressing trend—even more so considering how many of them live in acute poverty. The lack of inclusion of this cohort in the workplace is especially frustrating since CEB research shows that there is a strong business case for hiring them.

People with disabilities and their network spend about $2.4 trillion per year in the US alone. They also help create business opportunities: 92 percent of individuals prefer to do business with a company that hires persons with disabilities and 87 percent of corporations prefer to do business with other companies that hire persons with disabilities. CEB Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council members can read more here about building the business case for hiring and supporting employees from underrepresented groups, including those with disabilities. Work Without Limits, a Massachusetts disability employment initiative, also has a good resource on the business benefits of hiring this cohort.

While we’re on the subject, the CIPD has a new report out on perceptions of employability in the UK, which finds that individuals with disabilities are widely regarded as having many traits that are highly desirable in employees, but most employers don’t actively strive to recruit them. Sara Bean outlines these findings at Workplace Insight:

Individuals with disabilities ranked more highly than any other group in the categories of ‘Brings new and innovative ideas’ and ‘A great desire to develop’. The group also scored particularly highly in the categories of ‘Fits with organisational values’, ‘Good work ethic’, ‘Reliable’, and ‘Positive attitude to work’. However, when quizzed on current approaches to recruiting from diverse workforce groups, only 11 percent of respondents said they actively target individuals with disabilities during recruitment. This is despite the fact that over half (51 percent) currently employ professionals with physical and mental health conditions.

The findings reflect research by the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI) an independent not-for-profit group of employers and recruiters that have come together to drive change for disabled people in the UK jobs market – which found up to 85 percent of disabled jobseekers have faced challenges during the recruitment process, with 56 percent of respondents reporting first encountering challenges at the application stage.