Small businesses lead the way for employees with disability

Australia’s small to medium enterprises (SME) are punching well above their weight when it comes to employing people with an injury, illness or disability.

As Australia’s largest provider of employment services for people with a injury, illness or disability, APM revealed 80 per cent of its clients find employment with SMEs rather than a large corporate organisation.

The company used today, International Day of People with Disability, to recognise Australia’s small businesses who are providing opportunities for the 4.3 million Australians (1 in 5) who live with a disability.

Just over half (53.4 per cent) of people living with a disability who are of working age (15 to 64 years) participate in the labour force, significantly fewer than the 83.2 per cent of people without disability within the workforce.

APM works with job seekers to understand their specific strengths and capabilities, before approaching employers to determine if they can find a position to suit the job seeker.

Established in 1994, APM has assisted almost one million people across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

APM’s CEO of Employment Services, Karen Rainbow, said small to medium businesses are often well equipped to cater for employees living with a injury, illness or disability.

“SMEs are often very accessible - our employment consultants can engage directly with the business owners to discuss the benefits of employing someone through APM’s Disability Employment Services program,” Ms Rainbow said.

“We can also easily support employers to provide workplace modifications or redesign the job to enable the job seeker to perform the role within their capability.

“It is these factors that are resulting in four out of five APM job seekers being placed with SMEs.”

Ms Rainbow said there are a range of benefits for business who place a worker with an injury, illness or disability including wage subsidies and financial support to modify their workplace.

“From a social perspective, employers get to make a life-changing impact on a person’s life,” Ms Rainbow said.

“Having gainful employment gives people financial independence and confidence, as well as providing opportunities for personal growth, social connection and interaction.

“After securing a placement, APM provides employers and employees with ongoing support to ensure they settle in. The first four weeks of a new placement are particularly critical – if employees successfully navigate that first month, they are highly likely to continue in the workforce.”

The majority of APM job seekers are living with a physical disability (43.4 per cent) or mental health condition (38.2 per cent), although APM also works with people with illnesses as wide ranging as attention deficit disorder, epilepsy, alzheimer’s disease, autism, acquired brain injury, and speech, vision and hearing problems.

“The greatest barrier to employment for people living with an injury, illness or disability is the stigma surrounding their capabilities,” Ms Rainbow said.

“There is often a perception they are not going to be able to perform or meet the requirements of the job and physical elements of the workplace.

“We find SMEs are well placed to break down this stigma and try something new. We encourage large businesses and corporations to take on this thinking, so we can help more people living with an injury, illness or disability who desperately want to break into the workforce.”