New research: Employer attitudes towards employing disabled people

The Ministry of Social Development commissioned to explore New Zealand employers’ attitudes towards employing disabled people.

Employers were asked a range of questions in order to find out more about the qualities they looked for in potential employees, what they thought were the barriers to the employment of disabled people, about their attitudes towards disabled people, how they thought staff and customers perceived disabled staff and to what extent they were influenced in their employment decisions by the reactions of others.

Overall, there appears to be an apparent ‘hierarchy’ of disability where the type and severity of the impairment does appear to have an impact on employers’ perception of the employability of disabled people, regardless of whether someone is perceived as being capable of doing a job or not.

It appears that perceptions about how staff, customers and clients might react might be giving employers social permission not to hire disabled people.

Other key findings include:

  • Most employers agree that there is a mismatch between the picture of an ideal employee and their picture of a disabled person.
  • Most employers agree that the low employment of disabled staff is a moderate to serious issue (87%).
  • Around half of employers (48%) do not have disabled people working in their organisation.
  • Those that have employed disabled people have made no or only minimal workplace accommodations and incurred no or only minimal costs.
  • One-third (34%) believe that discrimination, perceptions and stereotypes about disabled people are barriers to employment in New Zealand workplaces.
  • Most employers (97%) felt that disabled people deserved a fair go.
  • Most thought that attitudes towards disabled people, such as the hassle of employing disabled people, lower productivity, higher absentee rates and additional costs, were barriers to employment in their own workplaces. These attitudes do not appear to be mediated by experience. There were no differences between those who had employed disabled people and those who had not.
  • Many felt that staff would not be comfortable working alongside disabled people. Similarly many felt that their customers and clients would not be particularly comfortable dealing with disabled people.
  • Respondents were asked, based on their experiences, what information or support could be given to employers that might encourage them to hire disabled people. They suggested information explaining the condition or disability, financial support for any changes or accommodations required, and awareness training for staff and employers.

Read the Employer attitudes towards employing disabled people (Microsoft Word)

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