COVID-19 has taken a toll on employment in New Jersey and nationwide, and nowhere more so than on people with disabilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer people with disabilities in the U.S. were employed in 2020, with a total employment rate of 17.9%, down from 19.3% in 2019. Globally, the pandemic has increased the unemployment rate among people with disabilities to 12.6%, the highest rate in seven years. And, compared to the U.S. general population, since March 2021, one in five workers with disabilities have been dismissed from employment vs. one in seven from the general population.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and a good time to shine a light on the magnitude of the problem and what employers can do to turn it around.
A survey by the National Organization on Disability shows that returning to work after being terminated or laid off is disproportionally challenging for people with disabilities. Besides the chronic stigma associated with hiring people with disabilities, the group maintains that many organizations lack disability-inclusive cultures with few accommodations or training for employers to effectively onboard new employees. One significant barrier is that too many employers don’t know about the positive impact people with disabilities can have on the workplace.
To aid organizations in hiring and retaining more people with disabilities, Easterseals New Jersey is taking the lead with an inclusive hiring guide that offers practical strategies for employers to use in their hiring practices. It also presents some compelling reasons why companies benefit from doing so. Here are just a few:
Increased revenues and profitability. Studies from The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and its partners show that inclusive companies see 28% higher revenues, double the net income, and 30% higher profit margins.
Less turnover. Numerous studies show that people with disabilities have a lower turnover rate than other employees. It’s a given that it takes significantly more time and money to find a new employee than to keep an existing one, so this is an easy way to achieve that benefit.
Reduced absenteeism. People in this group tend to have higher rates of attendance versus other workers.
Positive culture. Hiring diverse populations can bring new perspectives and creativity to your team. It can also help to cultivate an environment of empathy and understanding.
Greater talent pool. There are significantly more people with disabilities who are unemployed today compared with the general population, offering employers a wealth of talent that might otherwise be ignored.
The world we live and work in has changed immeasurably since the start of the pandemic. Let’s use these shifts to right wrongs that have been present for decades and give people with disabilities the same chance to earn a living as any one else. Let’s get rid of the misperceptions and stigma surrounding people with disabilities and look at the benefits that they bring to their jobs. It’s the right thing to do and it’s the right thing for your business. Easterseals New Jersey is here to show you how.
Brian Fitzgerald is president and chief executive officer of Easterseals New Jersey.