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03 July 2009 6:47am

Recruitment of disabled workers can boost an employer’s company brand, and provide an important source of talent when the employment market tightens, says Amy Cato, principal consultant at recruitment company Cato & Hall.

For recruitment companies, experience in recruiting workers with disability is increasingly becoming a requirement in preferred supplier tenders, Cato said, and can be a key factor in winning new business.

One in five people have a disability, she added, and a lot of them have very strong networks of family and friends.

“From a brand point of view it is well known who supports and discriminates in employing these candidates,” she said.

“Given that the economy will turn around and we could find ourselves in a candidate tight market again, leverage yourself and your clients to attract talent from this group in future,” Cato advised recruiters.

“People with disabilities are going to remember who looked after them in the bad times.”

Ask candidates what support they need, not what disability they have
Cato said people with disabilities are petrified of being discriminated against by recruitment agencies, and may not disclose a disability at the pre-screen stage.

“If a recruiter’s good, they will create an open environment that is supportive where the person wants to tell them that,” she said.

To avoid offence, she said recruiters should ask disabled workers questions around their behaviours rather than physicality.

“It is not for the recruiter to place judgement on whether they would be able to do a task, it our role to determine whether they are capable of meeting the client brief,” she said.

Cato said recruiters should ask candidates if there are any modifications or additional support they need at the worksite, rather than whether they have a disability.

Disabled workers provide many other benefits
Employees with disabilities often have better attendance and safety records, according to Disability Works Australia (DWA), a national body that provides free advice to employers considering recruiting disabled workers.

The retention rate of disabled workers is higher, says DWA, and their employment can have a positive effect on workplace morale.

Companies employing disabled workers also minimise their exposure to costly litigation, DWA argues. Since the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) penalties of up to $35 million have been issued to Australian Companies in disability discrimination cases.

Subsidies and advice available for employers
Recruiters are often reluctant to consider disabled workers because they believe their clients won’t pay full fee for them, Cato said.

But there are many different subsidies available for employers recruiting disabled workers, and employers should not feel like they have to do it alone, according to DWA chief executive Tina Zeleznik.

As well as providing free advice, DWA can even provide training for staff of companies considering recruitment of disabled workers. Call 1800 356 670 for details.


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