October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an annual celebration of both people with disabilities and those businesses and organizations that employ them.
Research shows there are significant benefits to business for employing people with disabilities. Yet the employment rate for this demographic was only 17.9 percent in 2016. While many people with disabilities are either unable or chose not to work, a large number would welcome the chance if given the opportunity.
There are a number of quantifiable benefits for a business employing people with disabilities. Employees with disabilities are more reliable and have a higher retention rate than those without disabilities. Studies show that employees with disabilities are absent less frequently than those without disabilities and are more likely to stay at their job. A study by The Chicago Lighthouse focusing on workers in a local call center found employees with a disability had a retention rate nearly twice as long as those without a disability. This translates into savings, as the cost to a business of refilling a high-turnover, low-paying position (earning less than $30,000 per year, for example) is 16 percent of the annual salary, or $3,328 for a $10 per hour retail employee, according to Zane Benefits.
Employees with disabilities are less likely to get work-related injuries. Workers with disabilities tend to be more aware, not less, of safety issues than those without disabilities. For instance, a study by DuPont found that workers with disabilities performed significantly higher than those without disabilities in the area of safety, according to the Michigan Community Service Commission.
Employing people with disabilities increases a company’s diversity, which has been documented to benefit businesses in such areas as enhanced customer service and improved return on investment and sales. According to HR and Recruitment firm Brazen, diverse workforces result in better decision making and improved customer service. A 2015 study by Deloitte showed that diverse companies had 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period than did non-diverse companies, according to Anka Wittenberg, chief diversity and inclusion officer at SAP, writing in “Forbes.”
In addition, more than half the U.S. working population will comprise millennials by 2020 and this demographic has shown to greatly prefer working for companies that demonstrate diversity and inclusion in their workforce.
Finally, businesses that employ people with disabilities may qualify for a number of tax incentives, including the Disabled Access Credit, Barrier Removal Tax Deduction and Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
With slightly more than one third of U.S. businesses reporting difficulty hiring, according to the National Association of Business Economists, companies and organizations that do not hire people with disabilities are overlooking a valuable talent pool. And their hesitations may be poorly founded.
According to “The Daily Beast,” a study conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, stated, “More than three-quarters of employers surveyed ranked their employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities as good or very good on work quality, motivation, engagement, integration with co-workers, dependability and attendance. Many employers reported being initially leery of hiring people with IDD, only to see their concerns dissolve after the employees were on board.”
My organization, Community Access Unlimited, has a robust program for preparing our members with disabilities for employment, then connecting them with businesses looking to employ them. CAU supports people with disabilities as well as youth served under the Department of Children and Families to enable them to live independently in the community, providing support programs and services in areas including housing, vocational skills and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.
CAU operates an Employment and Day Habilitation Services Department that assists those members who wish to work, comprising pre-placement services, including training in interviewing skills, work dress and on-the-job behavior; liaison support; on-the-job coaching; and follow-up to ensure both the member and the employer are happy.
More than 50 CAU members are employed at local businesses in Union County, NJ, in areas including retail, maintenance, clerical, culinary, security and animal care. Businesses employing CAU members include ShopRite, Sam’s Club, Target, Marshall’s, the Swan Motel, the Irvington Board of Education, the Humane Society and CAU itself (8 percent of CAU’s 1,200 employees are people with disabilities).
The benefits of employing people with disabilities are quantifiable and significant. More and more U.S. businesses are joining the ranks of those that recognize this. If your business or organization does not, October – National Disability Employment Awareness Month – is a perfect time to start.