Prejudice locks people with disabilities out of jobs

Australians with a disability have a much lower level of workforce participation than those without, with many locked out of job opportunities by prejudice.

This is what the ABC reported recently, further stating there’s growing evidence that suggests this is not just bad for them, but bad for business profits and the economy.

This comes in the wake of news that Queensland’s public service sector has set a target of 8 percent of its workforce being made up of people living with a disability by 2022.

As we reported last month, 18 percent of Queenslanders identify as living with a disability, but only 3 percent of those currently work for the public service.

That means that over the next 12 months, the state government would need to hire 14,570 more people with a disability to meet that goal.

The ABC report focussed on the drive for businesses to recognise people with disabilities as valuable employees.

As part of the story, the ABC spoke with Prue Hawkins, who lives with brittle bone disease and is in a wheelchair, who faced years of rejection when applying for jobs.

Since law is her passion, she started her own law firm, Empire Barristers and Solicitors.

“People say ‘oh, you’re so brave’. Well, no. It’s a necessity because no one would hire me,” Prue said.

“Law is what I love so I was never going to go back on to Centrelink or work on a checkout, THIS is what I wanted.”

Also featured in the article is The Valuable 500 Founder Caroline Casey, who launched a global movement to get 500 businesses to employ more people with disabilities.

“The scale of the problem is just too large not to have the most powerful force on the planet – business – at the table,” she said.

Telstra is only one of 12 Australian companies that has signed up to be part of Ms Casey’s Valuable 500.

The ABC report stated the Royal Commission found that only 1.2% of Telstra’s staff identified as disabled, but the company was trying to change that.

Telstra Group Executive Alex Badenoch told the program that employing more people with disabilities was not only more beneficial for the company and all employees, it ultimately improved the telco’s performance and customer service because it was more thoughtful in its products and services it developed.

Niki Petousis is Telstra’s Delivery Chapter Lead and developed her disability while in the workforce.

She co-leads the Telstra Staff Disability Group and said having a more inclusive workforce does lead to better customer service.

“Because our customers are diverse, just like us,” Niki said.

As we have previously written, people with disabilities often feel they are unable to disclose their disabilities when applying for jobs or even to their employer for fear of not getting the job, or losing the job they have.

Fear of prejudice or discrimination is resticting career advancement and even getting a start.

However, as the ABC pointed out, analysis from almost 1750 executives from around the world showed businesses that were focussed on disability engagement were growing sales 2.9 times faster over three years than those that do not.

Those same companies reported delivering four times more profits over three years.

The researchers behind these figures said the above data showed disability inclusion wasn’t just about philanthropy, it just meant those businesses were showing good business sense.

And it seems other Australian companies are starting to stand up and take notice.

Watch this ABC report here to find out more.

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