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SA businesses failing to meet regulatory targets for the employment of people with disabilities - study

The study aims to better understand the challenges that hinder people with disabilities. File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

The study aims to better understand the challenges that hinder people with disabilities. File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Nov 18, 2021

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Cape Town - South African businesses are failing to meet regulatory targets for the employment of people with disabilities, while disillusionment with workplaces that don’t accommodate their physical, social and professional needs contributes to growing unemployment and under-employment of disabled people.

This was found by a study co-published by Stellenbosch University Business School’s head of social impact Dr Armand Bam and UCT Graduate School of Business Professor Linda Ronnie.

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The two researched disabled employees’ experiences of inclusion from recruitment to orientation and their first six months of employment.

“Inclusion at the Workplace: An Exploratory Study of People with Disabilities in South Africa” aims to better understand the challenges that hinder people with disabilities from economic participation and what causes many to abandon formal employment altogether.

Bam said instead of focusing on legislative compliance and regulatory targets, employers needed to rethink how they defined inclusion and provided an enabling working environment that supported people with disabilities integration and productivity from day one.

“If employers and managers improve their people management processes around recruitment, hiring and induction of people with disabilities, and develop an inclusive organisational culture, rather than simply focusing on legal compliance, they are in turn more likely to meet their employment equity targets,” said Bam.

Bam’s research showed that people with disabilities wanted “seamless integration” and to be actively involved in decision-making about how their disability was disclosed to co-workers and how their induction into the organisation was managed.

“They want to be able to slot in beside their co-workers without fanfare or special processes. Their ability to do this is dependent on an organisational culture of acceptance rather than focusing on differences and narrow definitions of ‘normal’.”

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The study recommended appointing a disability champion to promote and account for disability equity within the organisation, the development of more inclusive recruitment and orientation practices, and active involvement of people with disabilities in shaping on-boarding processes.

“What this study explains is that, beyond compliance, there is a moral imperative to create working communities that embrace all people, and this starts well before people are employed. The manner in which recruitment takes place is a good indicator of an employer’s commitment to making jobs accessible.”

National Disability Rights Awareness Month is commemorated from November 3 to December 3.

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