Home' HR Monthly : December 2018 Contents December/January 2019 HRM magazine 21
A UNIQUE HIRING
If you’re looking to hire more diverse, disabled
talent, take a leaf from Nip Wijewickrema’s book.
Her business only hires people with a disability
or mental health condition.
“If you can’t sustain the cost of employing
people with special needs, you probably
shouldn’t be in business,” says the 25-year-old.
She notes it might be a controversial stance, but
she’s definitely earned the right to make such a
Just as she began a promising career in
the media industry, she threw in the towel to
pursue a social venture close to her heart. In
partnership with her step-mum, Nip started a
business with her 19-year-old sister, Gayana,
who has down syndrome, in mind.
“There are over 4 million people with a
disability [in Australia] and only 27 per cent of
them have employment. We didn’t want Gayana
to face that same statistic,” says Nip.
She most definitely walks her talk.
They settled on a flower and gift hamper
service in their home town of Canberra,
GG’s Flowers, which is now widely known by
Canberra locals and beyond for exclusively
hiring disabled talent.
GG’s employees will help package and
deliver hampers and attend local events to
promote their unique employment model. By
providing a meaningful work platform, GG’s
is helping to change lives and give disabled
workers a sense of purpose in the workforce.
“ We’ve seen Gayana’s confidence and social
Nip believes disability representation should
be in the air an organisation breathes, right
down to where they procure services from.
“Corporate sponsorship is fine, but at the
end of the day, if there’s another human that just
needs a chance, why wouldn’t you give them a
SAVE THE DATE
Learn how to integrate inclusion and diversity
in your organisation at AHRI’s Inclusion and
Diversity Conference in Sydney on Friday
10 May 2019. Express your interest online to
Daniel Valiente Riedl provides compelling
statistics that suggest most businesses would
benefit from disabled workers.
He says that according to research
conducted by the Australian Safety and
Compensation Council, disabled employees
have the same or better levels of the following:
On top of that, a new study by the Center
for Talent Innovation found that 75 per cent
of disabled employees in the US report
having an idea that would drive value for their
company. Sixty-six per cent of employees
without disabilities repor t the same.
THE BUSINESS CASE
Jessica Arthurson CPHR, assistant director,
workforce strategies section at the Department
of the Environment and Energy, understands
the importance of disability diversity more
than most. She dedicated her HR certification
capstone project to creating a new stream to
the department’s graduate recruitment program
The department originally allocated two
spaces for those identifying as having a
disability, but after receiving a flood of great
applications it boosted it to four.
“A lot of the time, people won’t know if they
need an adjustment until they understand the
requirements of the role. So we take the time to
tell them about it so they can make an informed
decision,” she says.
“The top candidate of the entire grad
program was actually a GradAbility candidate
and they would have been knocked out at round
two had they gone through the general stream
without any of the program’s adjustments.”
Another barrier, Findlay notes, is the lack of
employers offering part-time options to disabled
workers. While she works part-time in her
current role with Melbourne Fringe (the other
days allocated to freelancing gigs), her previous
employers haven’t been as accommodating.
Findlay recalls asking for a part-time load
on two occasions, once to pursue her freelance
work and another time due to health reasons.
When she was quite young, she was told by an
employer that maybe she could “get pregnant
and then you’d be able to work part-time”.
Valiente Riedl highlighted this as an
important area for employers to improve upon.
“I myself have two young kids and I wonder
why the conversation is different when I need
some flexibility in terms of my parenting
role than if I had a mental health condition.
Suddenly that conversation becomes very
different, and it shouldn’t be,” he says.
When you speak to people about disability
employment, the same thing is always brought
up: the importance of providing mean ingful
work opportunities for people with a disability.
The benefits of this are (hopefully) obvious.
What is meaningful work? It helps to define
that by what it’s not. Findlay is particularly
concerned about ‘jobs’ for people with an
intellectual disability that, she says, don’t
pay much because they’re categorised as a
‘community program’. She cited a case of
people sifting through pig faeces to find
worms for fish bait.
Derek Brown, the manager of the
organisation that facilitates the worm bait
program, Orana Riverland, spoke to ABC
Online. “We do a lot of work that other
people don't want to do." While he certainly
meant “our workers are willing to give
anything a go”, his comment also highlights
something potentially troubling. If “other
people” don’t want to do it, does it mean we
think it’s appropriate work for people living
with a disability?
“These jobs are degrading and the people in
charge justify it by saying, ‘They wouldn’t be
anywhere else. It gets them out of the house.’
But non-disabled people would never be asked
to do that kind of stuff,” says Findlay.
When asked if she had a message for
Australian HR practitioners, Findlay’s response
was straightforward: “Don’t underestimate us.
Hire us. Pay us.” •••
22/11/18 2:25 pm
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