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Employing disabled people - committed leadership

advice for managers

This 5-step plan outlines a framework for how to become an inclusive business

This section provides employers and business owners with important tools on how to provide a clear commitment to employing and retaining disabled people. It outlines both how this can be achieved and why it is beneficial for their business.

This 5-step plan outlines a framework for becoming an inclusive business. It has been written with large companies in mind. However, smaller business can modify this to suit their needs.

  1. Buy in
  2. Understand
  3. Develop
  4. Identify
  5. Monitor.

1. Buy in

A successful business owner has a strong and clear approach to increasing the employment of disabled people. Such an approach should be reflected throughout the business.

This approach should include:

Developing a business case for employing disabled people. (Full details about building a business case is set out in section 2 of this Toolkit.)

Amending the business’s diversity policy to include disability. (The Ministry of Social Development’s diversity policy is a good example to refer to.)

Developing an accessibility plan as part of your diversity framework. Westpac have a great example of an accessibility plan.

2: Understand

Identify what progress your business has made in creating an inclusive environment for disabled people and which areas require further development.

3. Develop

The information from the checklist can be used to develop your action plan:

Accessibility – Make your environment accessible, including facilities, information and IT

Disability responsiveness training – Build your understanding of disability

Recruitment – Recruit more disabled people

Retaining your existing employees – Keep your disabled staff, including those who acquire a disability while working for you

Data on the number of disabled employees – Measure how many disabled people you already employ by conducting a confidential staff survey.

4. Identify

A number of organisations can provide support and assistance to disabled employees or can help you recruit disabled people for available positions:

Workbridge – is a not-for-profit organisation that can assist you with finding disabled employees, providing you with advice and support on recruitment and follow-up support after hiring. They also administer Support Funds which can help with additional costs.

Supported Employment agencies – are organisations that can assist you with finding disabled employees, providing you with advice and support on recruitment and follow-up support after hiring.

JobCafe’s Possibility website has an ‘available now’ section where employers can view profiles of disabled people seeking employment. For a fee organisations can also become recruitment partners allowing them to advertise jobs and access a talent pool and other tools on the JobCafe website.

ACC – can help with modifications and provide advice about how to assist employees who have acquired a disability return to work.

Work and Income – can provide a modification grant, work brokers to help you find employees with the right skills, or provide wage subsidies.

Other information resources are also available to employers, such as help from other employers. Your organisation could learn from others’ successes by:

5. Monitor

The Checklist will provide the business with a tool to monitor improvements. This information can be used to update your Action Plan.

One important measure in the checklist is knowing how many disabled employees are in your workforce. If you conduct a confidential staff survey, you can use the result as a benchmark. By conducting regular surveys, you can then track your progress at increasing the number of disabled employees within your business.

How you measure the number of disabled people employed in your organisation is a challenging question. The Australian Disability Network has developed a report which includes a survey that can be used with employees and an associated video.

The benefits of employing disabled people

Employing disabled people not only increases the level of talent, but gains loyal and committed employees. There are many ways in which businesses can benefit from employing disabled people.

Improved cusotmer relations

A workforce that better reflects New Zealand’s diversity provides a ‘real’ perspective of what services meet a wide spectrum of needs. Disabled customers and their families/ whānau, friends and colleagues want services that meet their needs. All customers prefer to deal with staff who genuinely understand their situation.

Employing disabled people will help your business to:

  • understand their customers
  • mirror your market
  • build positive relationships with customers
  • respond appropriately to disabled customers’ needs
  • design and deliver appropriate services for all customers.

Strategic benefits

By employing more disabled people, businesses will:

  • make the most of the available talent
  • gain more diversity of perspectives
  • understand how disability affects people and their interaction with their world
  • create products and services which are responsive to their disabled customers’ needs
  • develop new strategies to attract and retain qualified staff.

Increased innovation

Disabled people bring unique experiences and understanding which can transform a workplace and enhance customer services.

Benefits include:

  • more efficient and effective business processes
  • the use of talent in innovative ways to increase productivity
  • a broader range of perspectives leading to an increased flow of ideas.

Enhanced reputation

Employing disabled people also enhances a business’s reputation. This is because New Zealanders recognise and appreciate that the business understands and represents the full diversity of the New Zealand population.

A failure to represent this diversity may lead to a business being viewed as ‘out of touch’.

Legal benefits

Legal compliance is a key aspect of responsible business.

Economic benefits

Employing disabled people will help a business to manage costs and optimise productivity.

  • Employing disabled people helps a business to:
  • improve productivity through innovative and effective ways of doing business
  • minimise hiring costs by accessing untapped talent
  • increase retention – particularly because studies have shown that disabled people are loyal employees with higher retention rates4
  • reduce induction and training costs.

Benefits to the New Zealand economy include:

  • disabled people contributing to the economy through taxes
  • ensuring greater economic equality.

Social benefits

Including disabled people in the workplace benefits New Zealand society by:

  • lowering the tax burden on businesses
  • improving New Zealand’s economic productivity, competitiveness and growth
  • ensuring greater social equality
  • providing opportunities for disabled people to contribute significantly to the economy as employees, entrepreneurs and consumers.

Ethical benefits

Disabled people are no longer isolated or seen as ‘special’. They are an important part of the diversity of society. By employing more disabled people, the business community can:

  • take an ethical stance that reflects society’s changing values
  • help improve the lives of disabled people
  • tackle discrimination – disabled people should not have to accept inequitable and unfulfilling opportunities in the workplace
  • create a culture of inclusion.

Professional benefits for people managers

Disability directly affects colleagues at work and in their personal lives. Taking a leadership position on disability:

  • helps to develop technical skills in change management, people management, job design, accessibility and useability
  • helps managers recognise and enable human potential
  • builds flexible management skills
  • enables managers to make reasonable accommodations that allow disabled employees to contribute.

Additional resources - why employing disabled people makes good business sense

The price of exclusion: The economic consequences of excluding people with disabilities from the world of work

A report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which provides an international perspective on why employing disabled people is a smart business decision.


A resource guide on disability for employers in Asia and the Pacific.

State of the Nation report: Retaining and developing employees with disabilities

A report from the UK’s Business Disability Forum including information about the business benefits of employing and retaining disabled staff.

Building the Business Case

A short video illustrating the case for inclusion of people with disability in Australia. Over four million people in Australia have some form of disability, so it makes good business sense to make recruitment, products, services, and premises accessible to everyone.

The value of building accessibility

Over 80% of organisations surveyed from across both the private and public sectors agree that their accessibility strategies have helped them build a more diverse workforce from a broader talent pool, or retain employees who have gained a disability. Assessing The Value Of Accessible Technologies For Organizations - A Total Economic Impact Study

Why you should hire someone with an intellectual disability

A vast majority of employers who give employees with an intellectual disability a go say they would do so again. That’s no surprise since employees with intellectual (learning) disability have been found to be highly motivated and eager to learn, while the culture in these businesses is strengthened via the dismantling of stereotypes and biases.