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Busting five myths about disabled employees

There are some misconceptions about disabled workers that keep employers from considering them when hiring. We debunk five of them.

Nearly one in four New Zealanders identify as disabled, according to the Stats NZ Disability Survey 2013. This means you may already have someone employed in your business that identifies as disabled. Or you may have applicants in your area interested in working for you.

There are many kinds of disability, including physical, sensory, intellectual and mental health related. A disability may be visible or hidden, permanent or temporary and could have a minor or major impact on a person’s life. No two people are the same, and no two people with the same disability experience it in the same way.

Disabled people are an untapped talent pool that can help transform a business’s culture, customer relationships and performance for the better. To get you prepared for your next hiring decision, here are five myths busted about hiring disabled employees.

Myth one: It’s expensive.

Most disabled people don’t need anything different to do their job. For those that do, the cost is usually minimal.

Flexible work arrangements are the most common support needed, especially in regards to hours. Technology has removed many barriers faced by disabled people as well. It’s good to have an open dialogue with a disabled employee about what support they need to be successful in their work.

If there are costs associated with making your workplace more accessible for a disabled employee, there are programmes and funding that can help. For example, if you hire a hearing-impaired person, you may need to install flashing fire alarms. Your disabled employee could apply for funding to cover the costs.

Financial help and wages(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Myth two: I’ll have greater health and safety risks.

Disabled employees often have fewer health and safety issues than non-disabled workers. This is because in managing their impairment from the start, the employer and the employee will have developed strategies to address the health and safety risks. Whether your employee is disabled or not, your approach to health and safety should remain the same.

Myth three: Disabled workers have high turnover.

Studies have shown disabled workers tend to be loyal employees and stay in their jobs longer than non-disabled workers. Higher retention rates mean a more stable workforce. It could also have a positive impact on your bottom line, with lower induction and training costs.

Myth four: It will affect my customer service.

A diverse workforce speaks to a diverse set of customers. Changing your workplace to accommodate a disabled worker may also help accommodate some of your customers. For example, making the font larger on signs within a store may help a visually-impaired employee do their job just as much as it will help a visually-impaired customer find their way around.

Myth five: There’s no support available.

There’s a lot of support available to help you through the process of recruiting and employing a disabled person.

Employment New Zealand offer tips about each step of the hiring process like recruitment and interviewing. They also outline ways to help you retain and support disabled employees as well as additional resources for employers.

Hiring disabled people(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Keeping disabled employees(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Disability information and resources for employers(external link) — Employment New Zealand

The Lead Toolkit from the State Services Commission is another handy guide for business owners, leadership teams, managers and human resources teams to help them employ disabled people within their business. Even though the guide was originally made for the public sector, it’s useful for other industries as well.

Lead Toolkit(external link) — State Services Commission

Do you have more questions about hiring disabled people?

Do you have more questions about hiring disabled people?

Contact Employment New Zealand by email at or by phone at 0800 20 90 20.

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