Findings of Most Extensive Employer Survey On People with Disabilities Released

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has released the Survey of Employer Perspectives on the Employment of People with Disabilities, the most extensive survey in history of employers’ actions and attitudes toward employing people with disabilities.

The report, available at http://www.dol.gov/odep, also makes a “business case” for the value of hiring and retaining employees with disabilities.

The survey of 3,797 companies statistically represents more than 2.4 million companies nationwide was conducted by CESSI, a division of Axiom Resource Management Inc. It found that a majority of large businesses are hiring people with disabilities and discovering that costs for accommodations differ very little from those for the general employee population. Additionally, the survey showed that once an employer hires one person with a disability, it is much more likely that employer will hire other people with disabilities.

“This research shows us the pathway for workers with disabilities to enter and succeed in the workplace,” said ODEP Assistant Secretary Neil Romano. “Employers consistently discover that hiring and retaining people with disabilities helps their bottom line, and our efforts at the Department of Labor to educate businesses on this fact are paying off for workers.”

The survey did reveal some resistance among businesses to viewing people with disabilities as able to advance up the corporate ladder.

“While in many cases, the front door has begun to open for people with disabilities seeking employment, unfortunately, all too often a glass ceiling still keeps these valuable employees in lower level positions,” Romano commented.

In related news, ODEP has articulated a business case, based on comprehensive feedback from employers, on the value of employees with disabilities. The information is available on the agency’s Employer Assistance and Recruiting Network (EARN) Web site at http://www.earnworks.com/businesscase. The business case, as supported by research, is intended to facilitate a business-to-business dialogue in six areas: return on investment, human capital, innovation, marketing, diversity and social responsibility. The Web page includes links to resources at the federal, state and local government levels, including resources specifically for veterans.

For example, in the ROI section, ODEP notes that the return on investment when a company employs people with disabilities goes beyond profit. Businesses that employ people with disabilities turn social issues into business opportunities.

According to a national survey cited by ODEP of consumer attitudes towards companies that hire people with disabilities, 92 percent of the American public view companies that hire people with disabilities more favorably than those that do not. And 87 percent of the public would prefer to give their business to companies that hire people with disabilities. In addition, people with disabilities and their network, as reported by the U.S. Census, represent $1 trillion dollars in discretionary spending.

ODEP notes that employees with disabilities bring unique skills, perspectives and work ethics to the workplace that help reduce costs. Creating an inclusive corporate culture that values employees, including those with disabilities, allowing employers to maximize savings by:

  • Reducing recruitment costs when they expand their access to talent.
  • Avoiding productivity losses incurred from unfilled positions. When an employer has a larger talent pool, filling positions can be easier and quicker.
  • Reducing turnover costs with a talent pool that tends to stay with an employer longer.
  • Creating more efficient work processes as evidenced by such companies as Walgreens and A&F Woods Co., which implemented accommodations for their workers with disabilities and experienced an overall increase in productivity.
  • Leveraging tax incentives, when applicable, to realize tax credits ranging from $2,400 - $15,000.

“Hiring individuals with disabilities is, in fact, good for business,” said C.T. Hill, chairman, president and CEO of SunTrust Banks Mid-Atlantic. “The return on investment to SunTrust can be measured in several ways. One, it helps our diversity initiatives, building a strong workforce. Two, it helps us to develop products and services, expanding our customer base. And three, it enables us to reach out to our entire community. It’s good for shareholders and it’s good for business.”

In partnership with the Conference Board Inc., ODEP will present major findings of the Survey of Employer Perspectives on the Employment of People with Disabilities via Webcast on Feb. 18 from 11 a.m. to noon EST during the program, “Are New Recruits Ready to Work?” The Webcast is open to the public and is part of the larger series, “Maximizing Human Capital: Employees with Disabilities.” To register, contact the Conference Board at (212) 339-0345.

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