Non Traditional HR Approaches: Investment in Disabled Employees

Before we move on to the core of the issue, we must define what disability or being disabled means

 “Someone who is disabled has an illness, injury or condition that tends to restrict the way they live their life, especially by making it difficult for them to move about.”

Thus, the employee, who is working for the organization, will be termed disabled if he/she is suffering from an injury or illness which affects or restricts them from performing their job effectively.

Investment in Disabled Employees

There can be two types of disabled employees

1. Disabled – while employed: i.e. the person was fit and sound during the start of employment relationship, however, during the tenure of his/her service he turned disable, which can be either:

  • On-the-job: This is during the work hours while working at premises.
  • Off-the-job: This is not at work premises, but surely after the start of employment relationship.

2. Disabled – prior to employment: Here the employer is well aware of the disability yet employ the person for the job.

1. Disabled – While Employed

There can be short- and long-term disability (STD and LTD).While dealing with such a case the employer must follow the following procedure.

The Interactive Process, whereby through an informal open discussion with the disabled employee, the precise job related limitation imposed by the employee’s disability are being realized and how those limitations could be overcome with a reasonable accommodation. Even if the department’s ability to accommodate the employee’s disability seems doubtful, the department must still conduct a good-faith interactive process.

There are four levels of possible accommodation:

  1. Job Accommodation: Modification of job duties, job environment and/or work schedule.
  2. Modified Work: Lateral transfer into an existing position for which employee is qualified.
  3. Transferable Skills: Transfer to “demoted” position or position of lesser terms/conditions (“last resort accommodation.”).
  4. Alternate Work: However, consideration should be given to his present salary and the distance of the new work place from his residence.

Consider the preference of the individual to be accommodated and select and implement the accommodation that is most appropriate for both the employee and the employer. The employer should not accommodate the employee in case:

  1. The disabled employee cannot perform the essential functions of the job; and that no reasonable accommodation exists.
  2. The person would create an imminent and substantial danger to him/her self or to others by performing the job; and there is no way to remove or reduce the danger.

In such a scenario employer may use medical separation and also appoint a rehabilitation counselor for the disabled employee.

2. Disabled – Prior to Employment

There could be any form of disability namely

  1. Mental health
  2. Physical Disability
  3. Learning Disability

which the employer is aware of prior to employment. But still considers their employment as a part of social responsibility, alongside trusting their capability to perform the task fit for them.

The trend of employing disabled as well as keeping provisions for employees disabled after employment is gaining momentum which can be due to:

  • Realization of social responsibility by employers.
  • Government intervention
  • Trade benefit schemes, tax benefits etc.

Reasons for this change

Disability Confident employers will have access to a wider talent pool. Technological developments and increasing use of flexible working mean that organisations are able to create enabling environments where more disabled people can contribute to business success.

Engaging with Potential Employees (Disabled)

  • Attracting talented disabled candidates can be problematic. Experience of leading employers suggests that multiple (project based) recruitment tends to attract more disabled candidates than single-post advertising.
  • Employer needs to build a  brand which symbolize welcome and fair treatment.
  • Consider offering work experience and internship opportunities to disabled people.
  • Sector based initiatives can help to change people’s views of working in a particular industry.

Considering high staff turnover and an acute shortage of skilled workforce, qualified technical people who are disabled can be good alternative. Unfortunately when it comes to recruitment, employers tend to look the other way if the job candidate is a person with disability.

But still the percentage of disabled employees is very low. Most employers are reluctant to employ the disabled because of concerns regarding safety regulations, the need to modify premises such as installing ramps, disabled-friendly toilets and extra medical costs.

Even if they are employed, the system that is being followed in the organization does not work in their favor  There is, however, concern that some management practices, even those imposed without prejudice on all employees, might have a disparate effect on the health and performance of some disabled employees.

With the advancement in technology, the potential of these employees can be enhanced to a higher level. For example, speech device can be used as a tool to support the person who is verbally impaired. Similarly, visually disabled can convey through special computers. Thus we need such things along with training for the disabled employees as well as the normal employees to help them adjust to the changes, and their differently-abled employees. Though, this may seem as an investment but the benefits are far reached and rewarding. Return on investment is far greater considering people with disabilities tend to be appreciative and loyal employees, because they have difficulties finding jobs. Their commitment to work has to do with their self-esteem. This notion of work, as a prideful activity, is something they definitely feel.

Cost to Keep Disabled Employee (Employed)

Employers experience multiple direct and indirect benefits such as retaining qualified employees, considering

  1. The cost of training the new employee
  2. Productivity of retained employee is higher
  3. Cost of accommodation is lower than inducting new employee
  4. Employers want to retain valued and qualified employees.

There are lot many industries which have a scope of employing disabled employee. its just the initiative which is required, considering Titan, Tata group which is one of the world’s largest timepiece manufacturers started introducing disabled employees to it’s facility since 80’s . “Titan was clear that these people are an intrinsic part of our society and need understanding, support and opportunities, not charity or misplaced compassion,” says Mamatha Bhat. Thus, the capable candidates of 18 -24 yrs were adopted and proper measures were taken to get them into main stream, like

  1. Ergonomically designed workspaces
  2. Training to enhance technical competence
  3. Non-discriminating policies, effective grievance handling, counseling etc.

With time, Titan has realized that the disabled members of its family are more loyal and far more focused on the job. Despite the physical shortcomings of these employees, productivity and quality had never been an issue. Titan’s children of a lesser god are no longer classified as disabled, merely ‘differently-abled’.

Thus, such an investment is worth not only for it’s return in terms of loyalty earned. But, employers should consider their responsibility towards the society and help in making these people self dependent and getting them into the main stream.

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