What does your company’s hiring policy say about your company?

Employers For Change are one of the biggest advocates for hiring people with disabilities in Ireland. By giving advice and guidance to its employers on hiring people with disabilities, hosting information resources on its website, providing awareness training and maintaining links with employers who can employ people with disabilities, the programme has come across more than its fair share of myths and reality checks about employing underrepresented groups. I interviewed the programme manager Christabelle Feeney to find out more about some of those myths and what the research says that disproves them:

“Implementing an inclusive disability hiring policy will give your organisation an opportunity to grow its workforce.”

There are 1.85 billion people globally living with a disability. Furthermore, 75 percent of consumers are touched by disability, which means the spending power of the disabled community is 11 trillion euros.[1] Yet, we are still trying daily to communicate the positive business case for disability inclusion.

So, why are people with disabilities facing higher levels of unemployment?

In Ireland, you are twice as likely to be unemployed if you are a disabled person, compared to a non-disabled peer.

There are a variety of barriers to employment which still exist. For the most part these barriers are attitudinal and stem from a lack of knowledge, understanding and fear of getting it wrong. Misinformation and lack of knowledge result in myths and misconceptions. These can often have ableist[2] undertones which we must challenge ourselves and others on.

Myth: People with disabilities are less productive and less skilled than non-disabled employees.[3]  

Reality: Research shows that employees with disabilities are highly motivated, hardworking and are more productive, more loyal, and show lower absenteeism rates than non-disabled colleagues.

The Deloitte 2020 Diversity & Inclusion Report[4] found that companies who had a truly inclusive culture[5] within their teams were eight times more likely to achieve better outcomes, three times more likely to be high performing and twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets.

As well as that, a 2018 study by Accenture[6] found that companies who were disability inclusion Champions achieved – on average – twenty-eight percent higher revenue over a four-year period than those who were not.

Myth: Small employers cannot afford to implement reasonable accommodations.

Reality: Research carried out by AHEAD found that two thirds of workplace reasonable accommodations requested were related to tasks and had no cost at all. The remaining requests tended to be readily available in the organisation.[7] There is also a Reasonable Accommodation Fund[8] available to private employers through the Department of Social Protection.

Myth: If your office is not wheelchair accessible then you cannot employ people with disabilities.

Reality: Apart from the fact there is a Reasonable Accommodation fund available to private sector employers, there are many people living with non-physical/ invisible disabilities. In fact, 80% of people with disabilities have invisible disabilities.[9]

The Good News

Employers in Ireland are placing greater emphasis on the importance of being disability inclusive and hiring from this talented cohort of individuals. There is a greater emphasis on creating equitable employment opportunities and moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Employers for Change has supported hundreds of employers since launching in 2021. In 2023 there has been a surge in the number of employers looking to educate themselves and staff in disability awareness and reflect learning in their hiring processes.

In 2022, Employers for Change and the Open Doors Initiative commissioned research by Atlantic Technological University Sligo on Inclusive Recruitment Practises. The result of the research is an Inclusive Recruitment Toolkit[10] which sets out accessible, practical and clear information and guidelines for employers and managers who wish to implement inclusive practises.

Creating a Disability Inclusion Hiring Policy

We know that diverse organisations are more successful and that inclusive organisations have better employee retention. Today, employees are looking for organisations that are a good cultural fit for them. That is – where they are valued, their colleagues are valued and the issues they care about are also a priority for their employer. 

It is important to assess where you are now as an organisation. The Employers for Change Recruitment Toolkit[11] has a short checklist looking at areas such as policy, training, physical/sensory accessibility and workplace culture. Utilising this type of inclusive audit can give you a starting point for action.

In order to create an inclusive hiring policy, you will need to start with setting out your ‘commitment.’ This is where your leadership’s commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities in your organisation is set out. It should be visible on your website and on your internal policies.

Next is ‘education’. Educate and train employees and hiring teams on disability and break through existing ableism or misconceptions.

Create ‘accessibility and inclusivity’ in your hiring process. Look to the Recruitment Toolkit mentioned above. This means assessing the existing processes with a specific focus on: Job Specification, Advertising, Application, Selection, Interview and Onboarding. It is important to include employees with disabilities in this process. If you have an Employee Resource Group or Network involve them in reviewing the current hiring process.

Ensure that you have a clear “Reasonable Accommodation” policy in place that has been effectively communicated to all potential and existing employees. Consider implementing a Reasonable Accommodation Passport[12] in your organisation.

Your hiring policy should also set hiring goals for the recruitment and retention of employees with disabilities. This creates accountability for the organisations and will feed into your overall metrics.

Regular review and evaluation of the policy is critical and should have the input of disabled employees.

Inclusive Policies Create Stronger Organisations

Implementing an inclusive disability hiring policy will give your organisation an opportunity to grow its workforce. It will also add to the diversity of your teams and create a more inclusive place of work for all your employees. People spend over one third of their lives at work and need to feel included in the fabric of the organisation. This adds to personal satisfaction and growth as well as having a positive economic impact on the company.

Visit www.employersforchange.ie for more information about creating inclusive hiring practices.

[1] https://www.accessmatters.org.nz/design_delight_from_disability

[2] Ableism is a term that describes discrimination, prejudice, or bias against people with disabilities or who are perceived to be disabled. It frames being nondisabled as the ideal and disability as a flaw or abnormality. 

[3] Over a third (36%) of people tend to think of disabled people as not as productive as everyone else. https://abilitymagazine.com/unconscious-bias-pwds-workplace/

[4] https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/deloitte-review/issue-22/diversity-and-inclusion-at-work-eight-powerful-truths.html

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/shereeatcheson/2019/06/06/four-steps-to-create-a-truly-inclusive-culture/

[6] https://www.accenture.com/content/dam/accenture/final/a-com-migration/custom/_acnmedia/pdf-89/Accenture-Disability-Inclusion-Research-Report.pdf

[7] https://www.ahead.ie/userfiles/files/shop/free/TheWAMProgrammeStatistics2020_spreads.pdf

[8] gov.ie – Reasonable Accommodation Fund (www.gov.ie)

[9] Source: https://www.invisibledisabilityireland.com/statistics

[10] https://employersforchange.ie/Toolkits-for-Employers

[11]  Inclusive Recruitment Toolkit, Page 13 https://employersforchange.ie/userfiles/files/EFC%20Inclusive%20Recruitment%20Toolkit%202022_FINAL(2).pdf