THE NATIONAL disability prevalence rate is 7.5 percent, yet employees with disabilities make up only 1 percent of the workforce. Freepik
Businesses not only have a legal and moral obligation to hire people living with disabilities, but they also stand to benefit financially from tax breaks and government incentives, says transformation specialist Roxanne da Mata Gonçalves of Strata-g Labour Solutions.

“Employers cannot keep hiding behind the so-called high costs of hiring people with disabilities. The Employment Equity Act calls for fair representation of South Africa’s demographics, including those living with disabilities within the workforce.

“Not only are people living with disabilities as efficient as their able-bodied colleagues, in some cases, they even perform better,” says Da Mata Gonçalves.

A report, compiled by Accenture in partnership with Disability: IN and the American Association with People with Disabilities analysed the disability practises and financial performance of 140 companies over four years. The 45 companies that Accenture identified as standing out for their leadership in areas specific to disability employment and inclusion had on average over the four years 28percent higher revenue, double the net income, and 30 percent higher economic profit margins than the other companies without disability policies.

According to Statistics South Africa, the national disability prevalence rate is 7.5 percent, yet employees with disabilities make up only 1 percent of the workforce.

“To encourage the inclusion of and increase the numbers of people with disabilities in the workplace, the government, through its broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) policies has offered tax rebates and tax incentives to organisations tapping into this specific workforce,” says Da Mata Gonçalves.

She says employers offering learnership programmes to persons living with disabilities can claim up to R60 000 for the initiation of the learnership, and another R60 000 when the programme concludes from the South African Revenue Service.

“If you had 10 learners at the end of your learnership programme, bringing the tally to R120 000 per learner and a net profit of R2m before tax, R1.2m would be exempt from tax, meaning your organisation would only be required to pay a 28 percent tax fee on the remaining R800 000,” Da Mata Gonçalves says.

Beyond this, employers can use the special window frame offered to persons living with disabilities to apply for training through the various Sector Education and Training Authorities.

“The Department of Trade and Industry makes provision for enhanced recognition from a B-BBEE perspective, being able to claim double points for learners with disabilities from a training perspective for as little as 0.3 percent of the Skills Development target. If those individuals are from a previously disadvantaged background, you can claim against that too. From a supplier perspective, Gauteng has allocated 5 percent of the provincial budget to go towards suppliers living with disabilities,” says Da Mata Gonçalves.

In a bid to create awareness, integrate people living with disabilities into the workforce and allow employers to maximise what is achievable on their B-BBEE scorecards, Strata-g is partnering with JDM Placements to host a workshop next month about the social and economic benefits of hiring professionals with disabilities.

According to The World Bank, one billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. Only about 50 percent of disabled people of working age are in work, compared with 80 percent of non-disabled people of working age.

“There are several business cases which have proved the benefits of hiring persons with disabilities. Employers’ objection around placing employees living with disabilities stems from how much of their operations will be disrupted and the costs associated with reasonable accommodation.

“But the benefits of hiring professionals living with disabilities far outweigh the adjustment required to create universal access. All organisations need do is to understand how they can capitalise on the various incentives offered by the government and stop infringing on the law by excluding hiring people living with disabilities,” says Da Mata Gonçalves. 

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