Over 80% of employers believe that hiring people with disabilities is of benefit to the organisation according to latest research published by AHEAD, an organisation working to create inclusive environments in education and employment for people with disabilities.
However, the research says less than 55% of employers offer opportunities for disclosure during the recruitment process.
The research surveyed more than 250 private sector companies with more than 20 employees and was conducted by Behaviours & Attitudes on behalf of AHEAD.
The findings were launched at a webinar on Wednesday (2nd June) as part of AHEAD’s WAM (Willing Able Mentoring) programme, which is a work placement programme to promote access to the labour market for graduates with disabilities. It has provided over 500 placements for graduates with disabilities so far.
Speaking at the launch of the findings, CEO of AHEAD, Dara Ryder said it was reassuring to see that 76% of companies surveyed had a diversity and inclusion strategy. Among those, 79% per cent specifically referenced employees with disabilities.
Mr. Ryder said while these results were welcome, it was notable that only 37% of those same companies had targeted recruitment aimed at people with disabilities. And only 24% offered a specific employee resource group for people with disabilities.
Although there has been an increase in disability awareness training over the years, the research highlighted the prejudice on employers’ part to instinctively think of someone with a physical disability when they hear the term ‘disability’. And it reiterated that the vast majority of people with disabilities actually have hidden disabilities, like mental health difficulties, autism and learning difficulties like Dyslexia.
It also found that two thirds (67 per cent) of larger companies in Ireland were aware of having staff with a disability but given that one in eight new entrant third-level students self-identified as having a disability, there existed a significant gap in the companies’ awareness.
On the subject of disclosure, almost 90% of employers believed graduates with disabilities should disclose it prior to the job offer, while some 45% stated it was a breach of trust if they do not disclose their disability to their employer.
AHEAD said it was concerning that so many employers considered non-disclosure a breach of trust, while not providing ample opportunities for disclosure during the recruitment process.
It also called on the Department of Social Protection to embark on an awareness campaign to ensure that employers are aware of the ‘Reasonable Accommodation’ Fund.
Fórsa national secretary Andy Pike said the report’s findings demonstrated a need for the transformation of the attitudes and perceptions of employers towards those with disabilities entering the workforce.
“We welcome the report’s authors highlighting the important work to be done in expanding employers’ understandings of the breadth of disabilities their employees or prospective employees have and raising awareness on what supports organisations such as AHEAD can offer.
“Significant barriers still remain in the recruitment process after graduation for people with disabilities,” said Andy and he echoed AHEAD’s concerns that sufficient positive opportunities for disclosure are not readily made available at the recruitment stage by organisations.
Andy said Fórsa has a particular interest in seeking equality in all aspects and added that the recent introduction of impact assessments was a central part of Fórsa’s wider equality policy.
“Ireland has one of the lowest employment rates for people with disabilities and has one of the highest gaps between people with and without disabilities in employment. This needs to be changed for the better.”
AHEAD offers a range of resources for employers as well as support with awareness training and the targeted recruitment of people with disabilities.
For more information on AHEAD and WAM, visit the website here.
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