Yes they are. Yet most Australian Disability Service Providers don’t have disability inclusion action plans or even report on their hiring practices of people with disability.
Disability inclusion action plans – the first step to correcting the imbalance with recruitment & employment retention of people with a disability
With Bill Shorten announcing at the NDIS Jobs Summit that he wants all organisations in our industry to employ and promote 15% of their workforce as being people with a disability, actions need to be started. How many of your employees identify as having a disability? Do you even know?
The Australian Disability Strategy 2021–2031 calls on all Australians to ensure people with disability can participate as equal members of society. Disability Service providers are a pivotal part of supporting people with a disability to live their lives, yet are disability service providers fundamentally supporting the shift to true equality? The ABS reports that there are currently 480,100 job vacancies in Australia, a 111.1% increase since February 2020. 68,900 are in healthcare and social assistance.
The annual reports from major disability service providers highlight that they are recruiting more and more people, yet there is still a candidate shortage. I know many are hoping for the upswing in skilled migrant workers, but even with boarders now open economists predict it will take two years before we see a real impact in recruitment levels. We also have to counter our expectations of the number of people coming into the country versus the number of young Australians who will again begin gap years work experience abroad.
But stress not, we already have the answer here. In our own backyards. We need to acknowledge that the unemployment rate for people with disability is twice that of the general population and as industry leaders and advocates, we have a role to play in rectifying this.
A peak body for disability service providers state they are “championing better outcomes for people with disability”. The organisation vision statements from their members, were also reviewed. They have been slightly tweaked to remove any direct identification, however, they are all common rhetoric in the sector:
• We offer people with disability opportunities to enjoy full participation in their community, and to empower them to pursue the life they choose
• Our passion is social inclusion for people with disability
• To enable each person to live as an empowered and equal citizen
• Partner with people and their communities to support life enhancing opportunities for everyone to live, work and belong in an inclusive world
• To support more Australians to live as equal and empowered citizens, to enable our people to develop great careers, and to grow our social impact in the community
• A world where everyone has the opportunity to pursue their potential
• To impact positively on the dignity and quality of life of people who are affected by social and economic disadvantage
The positivity of these sentiments is overwhelming, and these organisations do an amazing job at providing support to people with a disability when they are participants or clients, but what about supporting people with disability as ordinary members of society?
Supporting Potential reviewed the websites, strategic agendas and annual plans for over 40 major Australian disability service providers, how many do you think had disability inclusion action plans to help increase the number of people with disability on their payroll…………… Just one
Life without Barriers – employment without barrier position paper
Life without Barriers has published an ‘employment without barrier position paper’. Highlighting their strategic agenda to have at least 20% of their workforce identify as a person with disability. Good work Life without Barriers!
Many of those forty service providers reported on the number of women in leadership or the number of employees who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander, but Life Without Barriers was one of only two to report on people with disability in their employment (not including employment services). This isn’t a reporting anomaly, The NDS Workforce Census 2021 tells us:
• 49% (50% last survey) either did not employ people with disability or did not know if they did.
• 24% of responding disability service providers employed three or more people with disability (30% last survey)
• 11% said they employed three or more people in management roles
• 9% indicated there were two or more people with disability on the board
These figures present a challenge and an opportunity for our sector to access the skills and capacity of people with disability to contribute to the sector’s work. It can also minimise another competing pressure of lack of available workforce.
Let’s disrupt workforce barriers and break open employment opportunities. Our sector should be able to develop some of the best and most informative Disability Action Plans. We should be the north star for other industries in Australia. We have a chance here to make a real difference. If that goal is a bit too ambitious, how about you put yourself in the position of a person with a disability seeking to work for you? How easy do you think the process would be? We have a collective duty, not just to the employment statistics of people with disability, but also driving the many other benefits that work creates for people, including personal, social and financial.
We just need to start and my recommendation is:
• Explore and challenge your workplace perceptions of people with disability and their abilities in the workforce. This might involve reviewing your recruitment strategies, by:
• Moving away from standardised recruitment methods
• Shift the onus back onto ourselves to offer a range of accommodations, ensuring an environment of psychological safety for people to put their hand up and ask if they need something different
• Redesign your position descriptions to have a focus on core requirements
• Avoid using resumes and reference checks as the primary screening tool for interviews
• Constructively confront unhelpful behaviours, practices and attitudes, affirm strengths, talents and abilities, even if rarely employed. Have you trained your team in:
– Inclusive hiring practices
– Combating unconscious bias
– Share fresh perspectives no matter how radical. These may be the things that can revolutionise your service offering, after all, inclusive corporate cultures are known to be more innovative and profitable.
And finally, this strategy will benefit your entire workforce; what are your progression plans? How do you ensure that there are vibrant career pathways on offer as this will be one of the key differences between getting someone in the door and keeping a loyal and skilled employee.
This should all be spelt out in your Disability Inclusion Action Plan. We can help you in this process. Depending on your internal capacity, we can simply facilitate planning or we can do much of the heavy lifting. Disability discrimination is often passive. Especially in our industry. We need to take active and measurable steps to ensuring it no longer continues.
Contact us if you want to talk about a disability inclusion action plan for your organisation