Finding a job can be challenging for anyone, but cracking the job market can be particularly challenging for disabled people. The myth is that people’s impairments limit their capacity to work, but research and experience consistently shows that disabled people’s success at work are primarily hindered by colleagues’ attitudes, the accessibility of the workplace environment and the employer’s willingness to make reasonable accommodation.
There are some great initiatives in New Zealand that aim to support you to be gainfully earning, either as an employee or in a self-employed capacity.
The New Zealand Disability Strategy’s (NZDS) fourth objective is to provide opportunities in employment and economic development for disabled people.
The first actions associated with this objective are to provide education and training opportunities to increase the individual capacity of disabled people to move into employment; and to enable disabled people to lead the development of their own training and employment goals, and to participate in the development of support options to achieve those goals.
To these ends Workbridge administers three Support Funds to assist people with disabilities in New Zealand to participate in open employment. These are:
- Job Support
- Training Support
- Self Start
These Support Funds can be used to cover the applicant’s “cost of disability”, which are any additional costs that a jobseeker or student has as a direct consequence of their disability, when undertaking the same job or training as a person without a disability. Workbridge advises Support Funds are intended as last resort funding, so assistance should be sought from other funding sources first. The Funds are available to all disabled people, not just those registered as jobseekers with Workbridge. Workbridge works with the applicant and any supporting disability or other agency to achieve the best results for the applicant.
The next NZDS actions are to educate employers about the abilities of disabled people; to provide information about career options, ways to generate income, and assistance available for disabled people; and to investigate longer-term incentives to increase training, employment and development opportunities for disabled people.
Information that supports the benefits of employing disabled people is outlined on the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust website. The EEO Trust reminds us that the one in five New Zealanders who has a disability has skills, experience and educational qualifications that are as widely varied as other New Zealanders, but they tend to be an under-utilised talent pool. This points to a huge opportunity for workplaces, both in terms of tapping into disabled people’s skills and talents in a skills-short employment market, and more effectively providing products and services to disabled people.
There are a number of supported employment providers in New Zealand. Have a look at the ASENZ website to find all the different providers and get information about the services they provide.
Ensuring a smooth transition from school to work is the next employment-related NZDS action. IHC gives you some good advice on how to make that transition from school to work as smooth as possible. Forward planning seems to be the key and as much as you or your child’s intention might well be to do this, it’s probably going to be far more beneficial to start working on finding something that pays you money! So plan, plan, plan..
It’s also useful to remember that, under the Employment Relations Act and the Human Rights Act it is unlawful to discriminate in employment (including during recruitment) on a number of grounds including disability. Generally speaking, employers cannot treat a person differently because of their impairment or health condition if they can reasonably make accommodations to enable the person to do the job effectively and safely. If you think you may have been discriminated against, check first with the Human Rights Commission.
The last NZDS action is to investigate the requirements of the International Labour Organisation Convention on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, with a view to ratification. This convention is all about the rights of disabled people to work. It clearly states that all disabled people have the right to work, to be treated fairly and with respect. (You would think this would be basic, but some employers still need reminding!!) So get familiar with this document and if need be go armed with it next time you find yourself having to fight for your rights.
Benefits and financial support from the Department of Work and Income that are beyond the usual unemployment benefit are available to disabled people. Check out the Work and Income website to check your entitlements.
The Mainstream Employment Programme is an initiative that supports disabled people to find work in the State sector. It is run by the Ministry of Social Development. You can be subsidised 100% of your salary for the first year and 50% of the second year. It also offers ongoing training opportunities.