Lead Toolkit

Busting the myths about disabled employees

Myth 1 - Disabled people don't want to or can't work

Fact 1

The 2013 Census indicated that 75% of disabled people want to work and yet the 2017 Labour Force Survey has highlighted that only 25% of disabled people participate in employment. The financial opportunity cost to New Zealand of this employment and education differential for disabled people has been estimated at around NZ$11.7b. Technology has also removed many barriers faced by disabled people, enabling more people to reach their full potential.

Myth 2 - Providing accommodations for disabled people is expensive

Fact 2

Most disabled people don’t need anything different to perform their jobs, and for those who do, the cost is usually minimal. Only 10% of disabled workers under the age of 65 reported that they had modifications or specialist equipment in their workplace. The most common reasonable accommodation is flexible working arrangements. An Australian study found that accommodations for disabled people are financially cost-neutral or cost-beneficial to the organisation as a whole.[1] Technology has also removed many barriers faced by disabled people, enabling more people to reach their full potential.

Myth 3 - Disabled employees are a greater health and safety risk than employees without disabilities

Fact 3

Evidence shows that disabled employees have fewer health and safety issues, because in managing their impairment they have developed strategies to address health and safety risks. Employers surveyed in the Australian study reported on average that disabled employees have one-sixth the recorded occupational health and safety incidents compared with the 'average' non-disabled employee. They were also cheaper to maintain in employment (because of lower recruitment, safety and insurance costs).

Myth 4 - Disabled employees have a higher absentee rate than employees without disabilities.

Fact 4

Studies show that disabled people actually have lower rates of absenteeism, with the Australian study finding that they were absent from work 15% less than their colleagues without disabilities.

Myth 5 - The Human Rights Act 1993 forces employers to hire unqualified disabled individuals.

Fact 5

An individual must first meet all requirements for a job and be able to perform its essential functions with reasonable accommodations. Support Funds can be used for reasonable accommodation and training. If at any point in the selection process it becomes apparent that a candidate cannot perform the core requirements for the job, then, regardless of whether they are disabled or not, the organisation is under no obligation to hire them. Support Funds are administered by Workbridge

Myth 6 - Under the Employment Relations Act 2002, an employer cannot terminate the employment of a disabled employee.

Fact 6

Employers can terminate employment of disabled employee under three conditions:

  1. The termination is unrelated to the disability, or
  2. The employee does not meet legitimate requirements for the job, such as performance or production standards, with a reasonable accommodation, or
  3. The employee poses a direct threat to health or safety in the workplace because of their disability.

[1] Graffam, J., Smith, K., Shinkfield, A.and Polzin, U. (2002). Employer benefits and costs of employing someone with a disability. Melbourne: Institute of Disability Studies, Deakin University. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 17, 251-263.

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