The study examines Australian employer views on employing people with a disability. It is predicated on two ideas, ie that there are people with disabilities who are willing and able to work (but find it difficult or impossible to obtain suitable employment) and that the voices of employers have been lacking.
The study is based on focus groups with 40 employers from small-to-medium-sized enterprises, identifying factors which influence them to include (or exclude) people with disabilities. Apart from describing employer attitudes it sets out some strategies to assist businesses to take on employees with a disability.
It suggests that even when employers are open to the idea of employing a person with a disability, they are often not confident that they have the knowledge, understanding and capability to do so. Disclosure (or lack of disclosure) of a disability is a key concern for employers, especially in relation to mental illness, although employers conceded that this issue is mitigated if there is trust between the employer and employee. Small-to-medium-sized enterprises expressed frustration at their difficulties in accessing information relevant to their businesses, with the role of trusted brokers and mediators emerging as a key issue. Employers are not looking for formal training in 'disability employment', instead seeking assistance in building their capacity to support productive employment of people with a disability.
Irrespective of resource or human rights considerations, the study is interesting because it is traversing unmapped territory. The authors comment that -
A review of the literature confirmed that the employer’s perspective was largely absent from the research literature and policy discourse on employment of people with disabilities. For the most part, disability employment issues have been framed from a 'supply side' point of view. That is to say, most studies have focused upon what people with disabilities need, or need to do, to gain employment. There has been relatively little attention given to the 'demand side' of the employment equation—the employer's perspective. What employers might have to say, or what employers might need, has not been widely investigated or canvassed.