Connect4Work Connecting those who have taken time off due to medical leave with the right job, not any job

Mary Finn started Connect4Work having run a pilot programme for people returning to work following illness or being on medical leave. It was here that she saw the need for greater compassion and understanding from employers and the need to boost the confidence and self belief of the potential employee. Looking at getting them the right job rather than any type of job. Connect4Work now runs programmes for those who have taken time off due to medical leave along with coaching employers on how best to utilise these employees upon returning to work:

  1. To someone who may not be aware, what is Connect4Work?

That is the million dollar question. Businesses are supposed to support their employees to stay in work or return to work. If employee attendance is at risk, Connect4Work puts things in place to elevate help people stay in or get back into work; which benefits, thew employee, the employer, the state and the economy as a whole. 

  1. Why did you decide to co-found this business? What was the market’s need?

The business was born out of my experience working on a pilot programme. It was funded by Pobal funded disability activation fund – linking in – support individuals in receipt of illness getting back to work. Employees didn’t know where to begin. We had a range of medical issues, the common thing was they all wanted work but couldn’t find it. 

  1. What are some of the biggest success stories from the programme?

One person had back surgery but didn’t go well, but she was able to get a job – after getting work, she was unrecognisable to the person she was before. That was the impact of her gaining control of her life. A second person much longer service – she was selling off different items in the house to afford to live. Eventually she got work, got a new place, and had hope for the future for a long time. I wanted to replicate that nationally. I haven’t physically met anyone due to Covid, getting people back into work after 3 years being out of work. That feeling of no hope but then they go through the process and regain control of their lives.

  1. If a person is away from work, but wants to get back, what should they do?

If they are interested  – Introduce them to our organisation. We will then work together in a collaborative way.

My bigger vision for the service is working with employers to be more open and inclusive of anyone with challenges in their lives. So that they get a highly motivated employee and the employees get a truly inclusive employer.

  1. If a company is interested in employing people from the service what should they do?

The best thing to do is contact me, via our website. Everyone is different, everyone is unique, you’ll be getting an engaged, loyal and motivated employee, plus there may be tax breaks and further incentives for you to employ someone currently receiving medical benefits or social welfare. 

  1. What are some of the biggest myths of employing people who have been out of work for some time?

From the employees, they lose their confidence, worry about who replaced them, or if there’s a job their when they get back. But also what changes have been made in the company. For example take people who acquired a disability like long covid there’s issues like; how am I going to go back to work and the emotional impact of being back in work. It’s impact on family issues, fear of failure or self doubt.

From the employer – how is this person going to be when they come back – what training is needed, all based around fear  on both sides.

  1. How did the pandemic affect the organisation. Are there any positives that you can take from this period?

When the pandemic first hit – I was at every event going in the country, but then it forced to sit and figure out how everyone will have to come back to work. I set a programme for back to work, supporting organisations to come back. Circling back to case study in 2021 is run service online, this enabled me to deliver the service nationwide and be able to attend webinars and meet people from all over the world. I’ve accessed resources from throughout the world and in Ireland as well which will be hugely beneficial to the company in the future.

  1. What were some of the highlights of 2021?

In mid December I was invited to sign the Diversity Charter for Ireland, which is a Diversity Charter Ireland is a network of signatory organisations, a community of diversity and inclusion practitioners, seeking to build best practice in promoting diversity, equality and inclusion in their workplaces. I was shortlisted for Galway Chamber business awards in their accessibility diversity and inclusion awards. Accredited with an all star from the all star accreditation, coordinator for Vocational Rehabilitation Association Irish Network – recognition for contribution for 2021. We’ve taken on new clients, training etc. On the whole it’s been a very positive year.

  1. 3 Tips for creating a business
  1. Anyone who is inspired and feels the need for the business, go for it. I sat for a while thinking about it for so long because I was afraid that it wouldn’t be successful, but I’m so glad I did it. 
  2. Talk to someone in the area, develop your network before launching.
  3. Get help – so many supports, having support once you get pass setting it up is essential. The loneliness you feel as an entrepreneur is huge, so get a network, apply for group programmes 
  1. Are there any other programmes or organisations in Diversity and Inclusion in Ireland that you are a fan of? 

Diversity Charter Ireland – one of 26 charters within the EU.

AsIAm – great organisation 

Lots of other companies in LGBT. Lots of companies needed to recover from Covid-19 and get coaching

Others depends on their disability and where they are in terms of their entrepreneurial journey. 

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