Although employers are finally embracing employees with disabilities, unemployment among this population is still high. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (February 2021), people with disabilities make up 17.9% of the workforce. Different types of disabilities can impact that number. For example, more than 20% of people with mental or intellectual concerns are unemployed.
One of Easterseals’ goals is to help adults with disabilities support their families. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was put forward as a means of protecting individuals with disabilities. While this ensures employers are supposed to hire qualified Americans with Disabilities equally, the reality is not always a reflection.
Many employers are discovering the multitude of benefits these individuals can bring to the workplace. Here are five of the biggest reasons employers are embracing employees with disabilities — and why you should too.
Why Are Some People Reluctant to Hire a Person with a Disability?
Persons with physical and mental disabilities are, ultimately, totally underrepresented in the workforce. Research conducted by Rutgers University reported that one-third of employers cite concerns that people with disabilities cannot complete tasks effectively. Furthermore, employers become concerned about being required to implement a range of costly adaptations when they do hire workers with disabilities.
Contrary to these views, many employers find workers with disabilities are quite efficient in the workplace. Finding ways for people with disabilities to work in most companies is generally not wildly expensive (more than half of the accommodations cost absolutely nothing to implement) nor does it require an entire overhaul of building and business. Some of the best, easiest, and cheapest ways to improve inclusion and equity and support workers with disabilities are by providing some basic, inexpensive solutions:
- Tailored services match a person’s skill set to specific work tasks that benefit from the skillset.
- Many new workers will require only minor adjustments for accommodations. For example, they might need a chair for tasks workers without disabilities would perform standing.
- Adapting basic training through assistive technology.
- Create a “talent pool,” a community database with other nearby companies, to make sure a variety of positions are available and can be matched with the right people.
- Structured working hours can also be helpful for specially-abled employees. Grocery stores, for example, may have a frequently changing range of hours and days for most employees. Providing an unchanging schedule can be extremely helpful for individuals with disabilities.
Why Employers Are Embracing Employees With Disabilities
1. High Retention Rates and Less Absence
Although the ADA, by law, protects people with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, employers may still choose to hire people without disabilities instead. One misconception employers trot out is the potentially high rate of absenteeism. The potential to miss work because of disability-related illness, doctors appointments, and other misconceptions are one of the main reasons employers hesitate to hire people with a disability.
However, research produced by the United Nations shows that employees with disabilities are less absent than their colleagues without disabilities. According to recent findings, people with disabilities request 40%-60% less sick leave and time off than people without disabilities.
Furthermore, people with disabilities tend to be more punctual and have higher retention rates. They tend to stay employed by the same company for much longer periods than people without disabilities. This not only means less money going into training more new people but improves retention rates for your business.
2. Improved Commitment to Safety
People with disabilities are more committed to their jobs in the long term, but they are also more committed to safety in the workforce. Two separate studies (one from the Department of Labor Statistics and one from DuPont) found that employees with disabilities performed significantly higher in the aspects of their job that encompass safety than people without disabilities across all types of positions and labor.
Having people committed to safety and making sure the related aspects of the job are done correctly are obvious benefits for any company. The injury rate of workers with disabilities is lower, building a more stable workforce where only a few workers leave their job. This continues improving upon retention and reduced absenteeism — and saving the company money.
3. Improving Diversity and Morale
Another of the many great reasons to hire people with disabilities is the incredible impact they can have on the morale of the company or business. People with disabilities are highly skilled at adjusting to new environments. They often go through quite different life experiences than people without disabilities. This creates a set of unique adaptive skills. They tend to work well with other employees from a variety of different backgrounds.
Additionally, just the presence of people with disabilities can increase morale among all workers. When they are treated as a vital part of the company alongside workers without disabilities, everyone feels better about the work they are each doing. This can be especially true for workers who are normally abled but have loved ones or close friends with disabilities.
Exhibiting inclusion practices shows other potential employees (and customers!) that the company welcomes diversity. Hiring persons with disabilities increases the company’s reputation and sustain workers’ commitment to the job. Workers and customers alike tend to see such companies as diversified, equitable, and nondiscriminatory.
4. Gaining a Different Side of the Customer Base
An estimated one out of every five people in the U.S. has a disability. When people with disabilities are represented in your employee base, your customer base is more likely to reflect that 20% of the population.
Many employers who embrace employees with disabilities find that, rather than a decrease in customers, they find their customer base grows — specifically because people with disabilities do make up such a large percentage of the population. In fact, a recent study shows that 89% of people said they want to do business with companies that employ people with disabilities. Making a move that increases your customer base grows your company — and your bottom line.
Furthermore, when you employ individuals with disabilities, you are more likely to be able to include easy accommodations for customers with disabilities. For example, hiring an individual in the deaf community means customers with a hearing impairment will quickly learn there is a place where they can use sign language and be understood and helped.
Employers who are embracing employees with disabilities are discovering that by including a variety of different employees, they are more successful at knowing and meeting the needs of a diverse society.
5. Tax Incentives
Let’s be honest — finding ways to make taxes less of a burden is a goal for businesses and individuals. Furthermore, even the government recognizes the benefits of including people with disabilities in the workforce, and they know some accommodations can be costly (although of the 40% of accommodations that are not completely free to implement, most cost less than $500 per individual).
Tax benefits are the government’s way of incentivizing employers to embrace employing people with disabilities. While each state will have different tax incentives, nationally you can take advantage of:
- Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC)
- Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction
- Disabled Access Credit
In some cases, the Employee Assistance Fund (EAF), which provides benefits to improve safety for workers, may be appropriate. These funds may be used to upgrade building structures (such as adding a wheelchair ramp or elevator), expand, and add larger displays (which provides more room for people with mobility issues to move through the building).
For More Information
Not just accepting but embracing people with disabilities into the workforce provides a whole host of benefits. You wind up with happier, safer employees who feel more comfortable amongst their peers are working harder because they are proud of the company they work for. If you have yet to reap the rewards of an inclusive workplace, it’s time to start.
Easterseals’ HIRE Division helps people with disabilities find jobs in Central Arkansas through a job accommodation network, connecting people with disabilities to interested community leaders. Contact Easterseals online today to learn more about how you can benefit from embracing employees with disabilities!