Employers are hiring more employees with disabilities — and for good reason. These workers are crucial to winning the war on talent since they can be highly skilled — and too often overlooked. Adding people with different experiences to a team can also have a positive impact on a company’s culture, and thus ultimately on its bottom line.
Some companies may already employ a number of workers with disabilities and not realize it. Joe Nuzzo, vice president-counsel of worldwide sales and marketing at ADP, believes organizations should understand that the concept of disabilities, as recognized by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), comprises a wide range of conditions. These include physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, invisible disabilities, mental illnesses, cognitive disabilities, blindness and deafness.
The ADA covers an estimated 54 million Americans, Nuzzo said, citing the latest industry statistics.
“Almost any American at some point in their life may experience a condition that qualifies as a disability,” he said.
Yet disabled employees are often afraid to disclose their conditions. They can struggle to get proper accommodations and can face discrimination from colleagues. That in turn can lead to problems integrating into the workplace and lead to higher turnover.
How can organizations recruit and retain disabled employees and ensure that their workplaces are welcoming and safe environments? Here are four ways to become a top choice for workers with disabilities:
- Know and follow the ADA and other disability rights legislation
The ADA protects employees with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, so it’s crucial that organizations understand their obligations under the act.
But the ADA is not the only law your organization might need to follow.
“Most states have similar anti-discrimination laws that protect individuals with disabilities,” Nuzzo said. “Some have tighter requirements.”
When it comes to accessibility, it’s important to think broadly about what it means for your organization. Not having a wheelchair-access ramp is an obvious barrier, Nuzzo said, but an organization might be excluding or disadvantaging disabled people in unintended ways.
“Is your hiring process accessible to everybody, even to those applicants who might have hearing or vision impairments?” Nuzzo said.
Whenever an employee indicates a health need or discloses a disability, the ADA triggers obligations.
“Once an employee identifies that they have a disability and might need an accommodation, the employer needs to have that individualized discussion with them,” Nuzzo said. “You have to make sure that you fully understand their needs and fully explore possible solutions.”
There can be significant consequences for discriminating against employees with disabilities, who may sue organizations that violate the law.
- Proactively recruit employees with disabilities
Given the sheer number of workers with disabilities and the current low unemployment rate, organizations not actively recruiting this group are more likely to struggle when it comes to hiring qualified people.
“If you’re not reaching out and connecting with that portion of the population,” Nuzzo said, “then you’re really limiting your reach.”
He suggests sending employment listings to job listservs that target the disability community and ensuring the descriptions are written in a way that appeals to people with disabilities. Offering flexible hours or the ability to telecommute can be particularly attractive.
“I think the companies that do a great job of employing individuals with disabilities find an employee population that is incredibly determined, has much higher employee retention than their peers, and has an innate ability to innovate and problem solve,” Nuzzo said.
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