Disabled workers challenge naive employers

Thu 22 November 2012

A Sydney Morning Herald / Age article indicates that a fear of the unknown is deterring Australian employers from hiring more people with disabilities.

Luke Sayers, chief executive of PriceWaterhouseCoopers - one of Australia’s largest companies -  has challenged corporate Australia to increase opportunities for people with disabilities.

About 5 per cent of the PwC 5500-strong workforce has a disability, and Mr Sayers would like to increase the proportion to between 15 to 20 per cent. He believes more employers could do the same, but businesses are constrained by negative perceptions.

"It's a combination of factors – fast-pace and immediacy of our world of economic rationalism; fear of the unknown," he said. "Sadly, this means employers often won't commit the time to support and release the talent within these individuals."

Half the 2.2 million Australians with disabilities of working age are unemployed, according to a report commissioned by the Australian Network on Disability.

The report, by Deloitte Access Economics, found that increasing workforce participation rates for people with disabilities by one-third would generate $43 billion in gross domestic product over the next decade.

The report also found that increased employment participation would help cover the costs for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, to be introduced to Federal Parliament this month.

Australian Network on Disability chief executive Suzanne Colbert said Australian businesses ranked poorly on a global scale, with only 17 per cent of companies focusing on including people with disability. Australia is ranked 21st out of 29 in OECD countries in employing people with disability.

With the US government looking at introducing a quota system to compel more employers to hire people with disability, Ms Colbert said Australian governments could consider the same.

"We may indeed need some more carrots and sticks to help Australian businesses be inclusive," she said.

The NSW government introduced a $4000 payroll tax relief incentive at the beginning of the year to encourage employers to hire people with a disability, but NSW Minister for Disability Services Andrew Constance said few companies had pursued it.

See full article at the Sydney Morning Herald.



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