Employers failing the disability test, industry chief admits

Small businesses should help boost flagging workplace productivity by better utilising employees with disabilities, according to the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


Peter Anderson says that the Productivity Commission recommendation for a National Disability Insurance Scheme should highlight the value of disabled staff to businesses, claiming that employers have been guilty of overlooking their talents.


“We need to remind ourselves that, like everyone else in the workforce, people with disabilities can make a contribution to improving productivity,” he says.


“Small improvements in productivity in a large number of enterprises can add up to a significant improvement in productivity overall.”


“In recent years, we have not given enough opportunity to people with a disability to demonstrate their abilities to contribute to the workforce.”


Anderson’s comments follow complaints from another business lobby group, the Australian Industry Group, which claims that current workplace legislation has driven down workplace productivity.


According to the AiG, two thirds of its members that have suffered a dip in productivity blamed the “inflexible” Fair Work Act for the decline.


However, Anderson stresses that businesses could aid themselves by taking a fresh approach to disabled workers.


“Positive culture and attitudes can make a much bigger difference to labour market participation by disabled people than relying on governments or disability advocates to carve out a rights-based agenda,” he says.


“The statistics tell us that the take up rate for training, and the placement rate once qualifications have been gained, is significantly lower for Australians with a disability than for others.”


“Yet there are many people with a disability who are ready, willing and able to take a place in the workforce, and we should encourage them.”


“Apart from the critical task of providing increased skills to people with a disability, it is also important to remember that even at the unskilled end of the spectrum we can make productivity improvements that are important.”


“We are right to focus more on people’s abilities, not so much on their disabilities.”


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