While the Irish economy is nearing full employment, it is estimated that less than 31% of people with a disability are employed. This is less than half of those without a disability who are working. At Ability Focus, we believe that by increasing the knowledge and confidence of employers, businesses can break down barriers and create genuine inclusive opportunities for talented people with disabilities.
Almost 650,000 people registered as disabled in Ireland in the 2016 Census. That is more than 1 person in 7. This is one of the largest minority groups in the country and yet many service providers and their staff do not have an appropriate level of awareness around disability. Everyday people with disabilities spend significant amounts of money on goods and services in Ireland. They conduct business with retailers, multinationals, recruitment agencies, law firms, hotels and restaurants. They are software developers, scientists, mechanics, baristas and retail workers. They have families and friends. For every person that is disabled by barriers created by service providers, not only does it prevent them from using the service, but research indicates their family and friends will bring their business elsewhere too. By making your organisation disability aware, you are opening your business to a much wider market.
There are several legislative acts which public and private service providers are expected to comply with. These are The Employment Equality Acts, The Equal Status Acts, The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act and The Disability Act. Businesses who discriminate against people with disabilities may be brought to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or for public service providers, may face complaints directly under the Disability Act 2005.
All businesses should strive to ensure that employees and service users are treated equally, with dignity and to have the same opportunities as everyone else. Quite simply, it is the right thing to do!
There are a number of legislative acts related to disability employment which directly impact employers, employees and service users. Employers should have a competent understanding of each act and its relevance to their business when engaging people with disabilities. At a glance these are:
The Employment Equality Acts 1998 - 2015 places an obligation on both public and private employers to make reasonable accommodation for all people with disabilities, including staff members within the workplace. This means employers are obliged under legislation to take appropriate measures to ensure the needs of people with disabilities in the workforce are met. For many companies this requires a comprehensive reassessment of company policy and revaluation of attitudes by staff towards disabilities in the workplace.
The Disability Act 2005 placed a statutory obligation on all public service employers to ensure 3% of all employees are people with a disability. This was increased to 4% in 2019 and is being incrementally increased to reach 6% by 2024 through the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities.
The Equal Status Acts 2000 – 2015: prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods and services across nine distinct grounds, including disability. Under these acts, any organisation selling or providing goods or services must provide reasonable accommodation or special treatment, where without these it would not be possible for people with disabilities to avail of the goods or services. This is subject to the resources of the organisation. This act also allows for positive action in order to offer equitable opportunities for disadvantages groups, such as people with disabilities.
The Safety Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005: applies to all employers, employees and people who are self-employed in their places of work. It sets out the rights and obligations of employers and employees and imposes significant fines and penalties for breaches of legislation. Employers especially, have extensive duties and responsibilities under the act.
At Ability Focus we guide organisations and their employees through the various acts, explain the relevance to each organisation and inform why implementation is a matter of law, not convenience
Private sector companies who provide Disability Awareness training for their employees may be eligible for grant assistance to cover up to 90% of the cost of the training. This grant does not apply to publicly funded organisations. This is known as the Disability Awareness Support Scheme.
The Wage Subsidy Scheme is a government funded scheme which offers financial support to private sector employers who employ people with disabilities. It is funded through the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection. Through this scheme, if an employee has a restriction in their productivity due to a disability, and works between 21 to 39 hours per week the employer may apply for a subsidy payment of €5.30 per hour worked.
There are a number of other grants and subsidies to encourage the employment of people with disabilities such as the Workplace Equipment Adaptation Grant, the Job Interview Interpreter Grant, the Employee Retention Grant and Personal Reader Grant.
For more information see our links page. Alternatively email Ability Focus on email@example.com or call (01) 699 1150 | (087) 417 0652