Creating a united workforce for disabled employees

According to research conducted by the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA), around 1% of people with disabilities (PWD) are gainfully employed in the private sector.
Out of a population of 4-million people, this statistic is unnerving when you consider that this leaves an overwhelming 99% relying on social grants of which the CSDA reports only 10% are actually on the receiving list.

Stanley Hutcheson, founder and director of Stanley Hutcheson & Associates (SHA), a Skills Development Firm specialising in practical work readiness programmes and solutions, believes these poor statistics can be attributed to long standing negative stereotypes when it comes to considering PWD within the work environment. These negative perceptions originate from lack of societal interaction with PWD, particularly in the job market.

Hutcheson says, “As a PWD, finding legitimate employment is made more challenging in the face of this prejudice. This can be seen in the CSDA’s research where it reveals that 68% of adults living with disabilities have never looked for a job. Aside from the negative stereotypes concerning PWD in the work place, there is also the nagging suspicion that changing your company’s facilities to accommodate those with disabilities can be an expensive exercise.”

The National Buildings Regulations and Building Standards Act has stipulated that all buildings, particularly those where commerce takes place, need to have structural accommodations to support the disabled. These include access ramps, adequate parking, bathrooms and lift access. Businesses should consider these structural additions before deciding to rent commercial properties or ensure that developers accommodate these necessary additions.

Hutcheson explains, “Employers and companies need to understand that PWD do not suffer from a ‘one size fits all’ dynamic. There are many facets to disability ranging not only from the physical challenges but mental disability too. Only through education can the private sector really understand what it is like having a PWD as a positive addition to their productive workforce. At SHA we take a tailor-made approach to PWD and our clients who see the potential of our disabled candidates.”

By providing detailed evaluations on company’s building facilities, sensitivity workshops that educate businesses on the correct approaches when communicating with and employing people with disabilities, Stanley Hutcheson also provides Disability Toolkits that clearly unpack important information on the various kinds of disabilities and how to accommodate them in the workplace.

Hutcheson believes that businesses are short-sighted when it comes to the monetary and equitable gain employing people with disabilities can offer. “There are many incentives that are available to companies that are able to employ people with disabilities such as SARS income tax rebates. Section 12H tax deduction commencement allowance for disabled learners to the value of R50 000, this amount is also applicable for Section 12H tax deduction completion allowance for disabled learners. Skills development of PWD is also a BEE points earner in the work environment.

The most understandable reward is being able to help a PWD become a contributing member of society, which requires strong steps by the PWD to help break down negative PWD stereotypes. Aside from monetary gain, equitable gain is also to be considered when hiring a PWD. Not only will equitable representation be enhanced – additional BEE points will give businesses a competitive edge.”

PWD can be employed in all industries and Stanley Hutcheson has seen many successful placements of their learners who have graduated from their Contact Centre and Generic Management Learnerships. Hutcheson adds, “Our learnership programmes empower our students to be proficient in back office support, administrative skills, call centre customer service and data capture. We also ensure that our learners are equipped with soft skills such as time management, technology skills, and know how to operate as part of a team.”

According to Hutcheson, SHA aims to provide equal opportunity to all recruits, and streamlines their approach to suit client’s specific business processes and role requirements. “At SHA, we open our doors to all PWD regardless of their current disability. Our internal procedures help establish a qualified platform that meets not only the needs of our clients but the standards of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and the various SETA’s we engage with.”

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