Employers for Change aims to give companies information and advice to hire inclusively and employ, manage and retain staff with disabilities.
The Government launched a new initiative today (11 March) to make workplaces more inclusive of people with disabilities.
Employers for Change consists of a web-based employer disability information service and a dedicated helpline. It was developed with the Open Doors initiative, which advocates for equal employment opportunities.
The goal of the initiative is to empower employers with the information and advice needed to hire inclusively and employ, manage and retain staff with disabilities.
Christabelle Feeney, who was previously the national equality office at Fianna Fáil, has been appointed as the programme’s director. “There are approximately 650,000 people living with a disability in Ireland,” Feeney said. “Research shows that people with disabilities have far fewer employment opportunities when compared to their non-disabled peers.
“According to the 2016 census, only 36.5pc of people with a disability aged between 20 and 64 are in employment compared to 72.8pc of people without a disability. Employers for Change aims to tackle this problem by providing a central source of information and advice for employers.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, TD, said he hopes the initiative will support businesses in Ireland to “better identify, understand and remove the barriers that exist to the recruitment and employment of people with disabilities”.
The steps Government needs to take, he added while speaking at the virtual launch event, will involve more specific supports. These should include incentives and subsidies, greater flexibility in existing schemes, more focused and energetic engagement with the wider community, and more effort to overcome inhibitions and lack of knowledge among employers.
The initiative was launched by disability activist Sinéad Burke, who recently founded a new accessibility consultancy called Tilting the Lens.
“In Ireland, one in seven people are disabled,” Burke said. “Yet well over half of the disabled community are unemployed. Employers for Change is a catalyst to create sustainable, equitable change for disabled people and employment.
“We need to create workspaces, policies and practices with accessibility as a starting point. As a member of the Employers for Change steering committee, I’m keen to support the initiative in providing the education, resources and support needed to achieve this.”
Businesses can access the Employers for Change online resource here or contact the dedicated helpline by call, text or WhatsApp to 085 157 9603.