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Employers anxious about hiring people with disabilities, but see their value
By Lauren La Rose (CP) – 13 hours ago
TORONTO — While most employers see people living with disabilities as valuable assets to the workplace, anxieties over job accommodation or firing workers discourage some from hiring them, a new study suggests.
More than 100 human resource executives from a cross-section of Ontario-based firms took part in the study commissioned by the Job Opportunity Information Network. JOIN helps individuals with disabilities to find and maintain employment, and assists employers in recruiting candidates.
Among respondents, 36 per cent say they were discouraged from hiring a person with a disability out of concern that it would be harder to dismiss a person with a disability than someone without one.
Conrad Winn, president of Compas, whose company conducted the survey, was among those attending "Employing Individuals with Disabilities: Strategies on Inclusion, Recruitment and Retention," JOIN's day-long conference Thursday for employers.
Winn said anxiety over having the recruitment of a person with a disability not work out was the greatest reservation expressed by employers.
"I think there's all sorts of elements depending on the individual employer," he said. "One is simply the sheer discomfort: you've raised their expectations and because you really want to do good and do well and now you've dashed them so there's that human side. There's also a fear of leaving some people the impression that you're letting people with disabilities down, or maybe even the impression that maybe you're being unfair or discriminatory."
"There's lots of reasons and sometimes the most powerful reason that causes fear is when people don't think through the issue."
The survey found 24 per cent of respondents said concerns over the possibility of higher absentee rates discouraged them from hiring a person with a disability. Perceived expense tied to hiring an employee with a disability and increased effort to train employees were also cited as concerns.
Cory Garlough, vice-president of global employment strategies for Scotiabank, said from an HR perspective, companies should be ensuring policies and programs support the type of employer they want to be - namely, one that's inclusive of all individuals.
Garlough noted that his company offers a centralized pool of funds to help with accommodations of new employees, as well as a tech group dedicated to ensuring access for both workers and customers with disabilities.
"You do it for your customers in terms of making accommodations, you do it for employees as well," he said. "What we try to do is make it easy for people, so it's the path of least resistance."
Despite anxieties expressed, employers surveyed also believed hiring an individual with a disability could add both value and a fresh perspective to the workplace.
Fifty-three per cent of respondents say the idea that employees with a disability will try harder would motivate them to hire.
"If an employee comes in and sees a person with a disability doing a job, doing a really good job, they'll say 'You know what? If they can overcome all that stuff, you know what, I should be able to even do more,"' said Danny Brennan, JOIN treasurer and entrepreneurial programs manager at the Toronto Business Development Centre. "They can be a motivating factor to make some change in the workplace."
Brennan said continuing to tell stories of successful people with disabilities that get and retain jobs or start businesses is key to helping to break down barriers and stigmas.
Conference attendees got a first-hand glimpse of such perspectives from high-profile conference speakers like Ontario Lt.-Gov. David Onley, who had polio as a child and uses a scooter to get around.
Also speaking was Dr. Jennifer Arnold, star of the TLC reality series "The Little Couple," who spoke candidly about overcoming personal and professional challenges and rising in the ranks of her profession.
Arnold, who stands three feet, two inches tall, said employers shouldn't be afraid to ask applicants about their capabilities and what accommodations they need. But she said they should also trust that the person being interviewed is able to discern whether they're capable physically of doing the job or not.
The neonatologist said her own on-the-job accommodations are quite minimal - using step stools at bedsides and a scooter for distance.
She implored employers to hire the most qualified candidates, regardless of whether they have a disability.
"I hope you'll look beyond the disability and look to the resume."
Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
New Study Reveals Out-dated Stigmas are the Number One Obstacle to Hiring
TORONTO, November 5, 2009 – Job prospects for Ontarians living with a disability are taking another step forward today as more than 150 Toronto businesses and 300 delegates gather to address issues related to hiring people with disabilities. These discussions will take place at the Job Opportunity Information Network (JOIN) Toronto Region annual Employer Conference. Those attending included industry leaders, business leadership networks, government, and community based organizations.
"We've learned that many employers recognize the value that people with disabilities can provide in a workplace. But out-dated stigmas are still the number one barrier to jobs in Toronto," said Susan Howatt, Chairperson, JOIN Toronto Region Board of Governors. "That's why today's conference is so important. People living with a disability represent the largest, untapped human resources pool in Canada and they deserve a chance."
In conjunction with the conference, JOIN is releasing highlights of an extensive employer survey conducted by COMPAS Research Inc. that confirms a major reason executives often don't hire people with disabilities is that they are often anxious about how to handle potential underperformance issues.
"Today's conference highlights the importance of partnerships in providing opportunities for all Ontarians," said Minister of Community and Social Services, Madeleine Meilleur. "As our government moves forward with accessibility legislation, we will continue to work with organizations like JOIN to help businesses break down barriers and tap into the extraordinary talent that can be gained from hiring people with disabilities."
"Equipping employers and employees with the proper tools and training they need to ensure bias-free recruitment and hiring, and establishing a work environment where all employees can achieve their professional potential is something that Scotiabank takes very seriously," said Sylvia Chrominska, Scotiabank Group Head, Global Human Resources and Communication. "Scotiabank is proud to support the JOIN conference and the doors it opens through facilitating conversations between potential employers and employees. Scotiabank is committed to supporting the communities in which we live and work, both in Canada and abroad. Recognized as a leader internationally and among Canadian corporations for its charitable donations and philanthropic activities, in 2008 the Bank provided about $43 million in sponsorships and donations for a variety of projects and initiatives, primarily in the areas of healthcare, education, social services and arts and culture. "
Join is a network of agencies offering employment assistance services to both employers and people with disabilities. The efforts of JOIN, and its partners, have resulted in over 2,000 Torontonians living with a disability gaining employment. JOIN has 23 member agencies across Toronto and is funded through the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
For more information please contact: Amanda Galbraith, Playbook Communications, 416-710-3211 or email@example.com.
For more information on the employer survey or JOIN please visit www.joininfo.ca/toronto/news.aspx.
JOIN 2009 Employer Study – Key Results
On behalf of the Job Opportunity Information Network (JOIN-Toronto), COMPAS Research conducted a detailed employer study in summer 2009. COMPAS spoke to 110 Human Resource Executives from a cross-section of Ontario-based firms, including public, private, not-for-profit and for-profit organizations. The study examined employers' perceptions related to hiring persons with disabilities.
The biggest obstacle to hiring individuals with disabilities— anxiety
•The biggest obstacle to hiring a person with a disability is employers' concern that they will be unable to manage a potentially underperforming employee with a disability. When polled 36 per cent of Senior Human Resource Executives said they were discouraged from hiring a person with a disability because "it's harder to dismiss an underperforming person with a disability than one without a disability."
•In a tough economy, worry about the bottom line is another factor hurting job prospects. Twenty-six per cent of employers' said the perceived expense related to hiring an employee with a disability discouraged them. Concerns with higher absentee rates and increased effort to train employees were third and fourth most frequently mentioned concerns, respectively.
The biggest advantage of hiring individuals with disabilities – Adding value to the workplace
•Employers feel people with a disability add value and bring a fresh perspective. These are perceived as the top two advantages of hiring individuals with disabilities. In practice, 53 per cent of employers said the idea that employees with a disability will "try harder" would motivate them to hire. The same percentage, 53 per cent, said that they would be motivated to hire people with disabilities because they bring a "fresh perspective."
•Executives surveyed also felt people with a disability would be more loyal to their employer. Employers who thought retention rates among people with disabilities are higher than among employees as a whole outnumbered those who see rates as below average by 2 to 1.
Business executives very much want to obey the law and do the right thing—but very few are aware or understand what the law says about disabilities
•Employers were asked what would most persuade them to hire people with disabilities. The most persuasive messages advocating the hiring of people with disabilities are employers' legal obligations to do so and employers' belief that doing so is morally the right thing to do. Those employers who consider the legal requirement as persuasive outnumber those who don't by almost 7 to 1 (73% vs. 11%). The moral argument that it is decent and fair to hire people with disabilities is at least as persuasive as the legal argument. Those employers who consider the moral argument persuasive outnumber those who don't by almost 10 to 1 (75% vs. 8%).
•Though employers say that the law matters enormously to them, in practice they admit in our uncertain economic climate they have been occupied with fiscal management and therefore unable to keep up with legal changes. Only 22 per cent of business executives say that they are aware of the accessibility legislation, while 73 per cent say they are unaware of it.
•On the flip side, employers who work with JOIN are considerably more familiar with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) than are employers as a whole1.
1Relatively small (n=10), the sub-sample of employers involved with JOIN is normally treated as qualitative and suggestive rather than as quantitative information. However, the level of awareness of AODA is so dramatically higher among employers involved with JOIN than among employers as a whole as to suggest very strongly that a larger subsample of JOIN-involved employers would answer in much the same way. Among employers as a whole, 22% report awareness of AODA compared to 50% among JOIN-involved employers. Among employers as a whole, 41% report absolute lack of awareness of AODA (score of 1 on 7 point awareness scale) compared to only 10% of JOIN-involved employers reporting absolute lack of awareness.
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