Workers with disabilities an obvious solution

Employers are missing out on a significant workforce opportunity

With job vacancies in the hospitality sector set to top 100,000 and industry bodies warning the skills shortage will continue to make life difficult for accommodation providers, employers not looking to people with disabilities as one of the most obvious sources of highly capable talents are missing out.

Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO, Michael Johnson is a long-time, very strong advocate for employing people with a disability at any time and even more so now during what he describes as a “crisis situation.”

“I would be very surprised if there is anyone sitting in agencies at the moment without work. There is so much work around at the moment they must be getting lapped up like everyone else,” he said.

“The hotel sector has always embraced people with disabilities, as telephonists, receptionists, in housekeeping and F&B. When the fit is right, it certainly works well, and they are extremely loyal employees.

“When you take on a person with a disability, it’s very much becomes a two-way street –  you get a good employee and you’re helping a person with a disability get into work.

“And that’s a really good thing.”

There are certainly no shortage of reasons why employers should be looking to this valuable pool of talents.

JobAccess general manager Daniel Valiente-Riedl said Australian employers not employing people with disabilities are missing out on a significant opportunity to broaden their workforce.

“Hiring a person with a disability shouldn’t be seen as an issue to be overcome, but an opportunity to build stronger teams.

“Many people want to do it, he said, but they just don’t know how to go about it.

“There are several statistical reports that show employing people with a disability isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also very good for business, and also well documented that employees with a disability have lower rates of absenteeism and staff turnover and fewer workplace injuries than other workers.

“Some 70 percent of employers who would like to consider employing a person with a disability, but only 30 percent will show any behavioural commitment to do so.

“Add to this people with disabilities are so under-represented in the workplace, employers are fearful and don’t know where to go or how to go about it and they don’t know the support out there from services like JobAccess.

“Employing people with disabilities creates a better environment within your workforce, it means you become more flexible, it means you will have ideas you didn’t have previously, and it means you will also be attracting customers from that cohort as well because you will have a better understanding of what that cohort needs.”

Elements of the hospitality sector have certainly been active in employing people with disabilities for many years, including Crown which since 2014 has been committed to creating an accessible and inclusive environment for people with disability.

The company’s CROWNability Action Plan for 2018-2021 is strategically focused on access and inclusion beyond employment and shares the current achievements and future initiatives undertaken at Crown.

Accor too has pursued an active approach toward inclusivity for people with disabilities. In 2015, the Group joined 500 multinationals when it signed the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) ‘Global Business and Disability Charter’.

The 10-point charter aims to provide a framework to help combat discrimination, promote equal opportunities, and increase access to workplaces and tools.

In Western Australia, and highly proactive since its launch in 2019, the Hospitality Disability Network of Western Australia (HDNWA), drives a program to support the introduction of people with disabilities into careers with hospitality businesses throughout the state.

The organisation, which has helped placed hundreds of work-ready candidates, also aims to create a community among employers to share advice on how best to support the introduction of people with disabilities into various roles throughout venues.

Currently, HDNWA consists of several major industry groups including Marriott International, IHG, Crown Perth, AHS Hospitality, The Hospitality Group and Venues Live.

The program also works closely with the state’s Disability Employment Services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to assist people into hospitality career pathways.

HDNWA chair, Craig Menzies, who is the general manager – catering for Venues Live which operates Optus Stadium, said the HDNWA works with a network of hospitality providers in WA to build a disability confident sector through education and support.

“Through our network we seek to find ongoing and sustainable work opportunities for people living with disabilities,” he said.

“The hospitality sector’s current skill shortage presents a big challenge but also provides many opportunities to bring people living with disabilities into employment.

Mr Menzies said while the HDNWA was focused on giving people living with a disability the opportunity to work,  educating hospitality providers as to how they can help break down the barriers was key to what the organisation is working hard to achieve. 

The Australian Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Employ outside the box’ business case for employing people with a disability points out many of the positives.

Primarily people with disabilities provide a partial solution to Australia’s long-term labour force needs and as employees they can provide benefits to individual businesses.

Independent studies provide evidence that people with disability have a very positive work attitude and work ethos, employers see employees who have a positive attitude in the workplace as being valuable to their business, employees with disability can lead to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, reduced turnover, increased morale, more positive organisational culture, and reduced workers’ compensation.

Add to this, the costs of hiring staff, advertising, on-costs, induction, and training can be reduced as generally there is less turnover for employees with disability.

And there are no shortage of organisations in place to help employers with literally hundreds of very capable candidates at their fingertips ready to start work at a moment’s notice.

Examples of these include Job Access, Atwork Australia, and the National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC).

Created by the Australian Government, Job Access is the national hub for workplace and employment information for people with disability, employers, and service providers.

atWork Australia is a leading specialist in disability employment, with more than 300 locations nationwide offering a range of free services to employers, big and small, to recruit people with disability, injury, or health condition. 

NRDC is funded by the Australian Government as a program of JobAccess, the national hub for workplace and employment information for people with disability, employers and service providers and was created to help larger employers access the skills and talents of people with disability.

For employers looking to increase their disability confidence, there is a wide range of support available. Visit the JobAccess website to view the Employer Toolkit or call 1800 464 800 to speak to a Professional Adviser. 

The National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC) is the Employer Engagement service of JobAccess and partners with larger employers across Australia to improve their disability confidence through free, tailored 12-month partnerships.


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