Building a diverse workforce is not just about 'doing the right thing', 'ticking a box', or an act of charity. There are real benefits to building an inclusive workplace that is a true reflection of the wider community.

This is especially true for diversity of disability in the workforce. With over 2.1 million working-age Australians having a disability, there is an untapped pool of talented, qualified people ready to add to your team.

Put diversity and inclusion at the heart of your organisation.

What is a diverse workforce?

Not to be confused with equal opportunity, diversity in the workplace is when an organisation intentionally employs people from a range of backgrounds, such as race, gender, ethnicity, faith, age, language disability and many more.

An inclusive workplace embraces the differences between individuals and recognises the huge value that hiring from a diverse range of backgrounds and personalities can add for their business.

Staff member from Newcastle Permanent talks about diversity in their workforce.

Benefits of a disability inclusive workforce

Untapped talent pool

1 in 5 Australians identify as having a physical or mental disability, however these individuals are 30% less likely to secure a job. Our community is turning away a huge number of perfectly capable, talented and qualified people, just because they have a disability.

New perspectives

People with disabilities are often experienced at bringing creative solutions to their everyday lives. Employees with a variety of life experiences and backgrounds are going to bring new ideas and fresh approaches to a business. One study estimates inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders

Better employee performance

Creating an inclusive environment with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives allows employees to feel more comfortable being themselves, in turn leading to happier, engaged and more productive staff. Research also shows that employees with disabilities take fewer days off, take less sick leave and stay in jobs for longer than other workers have fewer compensation incidents and accidents at work compared to other workers

Improve your reputation and capture new markets

Chances are, 20% of your customers will have some kind of disability. Organisations with a diverse workforce better reflect the demographics of their local community, gaining a better understanding of their customers and improving their reputation along the way. Become known as the 'brand of choice' for customers and talent of diverse backgrounds.

Save costs of recruitment

The Government funded Disability Employment Services scheme supports eligible job seekers and businesses through the recruitment process, at no cost. A DES provider can do the hard work of finding the right candidate for your business and facilitate access to wage subsidies, incentives, costs of modifying work spaces, training and ongoing support for both parties. All to make sure the candidate and employer are the perfect match.

Increased Profits

International studies and surveys show that greater diversity leads to better financial performance. One study estimates inclusive companies experience 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee

Employers rated staff with disabilities 'better than average' in reliability and maintenance factors

How to build a disability inclusive workforce


Measure your diversity

The first step to building a more diverse workforce is to assess how inclusive your current workplace is. The Australian Network on Disability Access and Inclusion Index Quick Self-Assessment is a free, 10 question assessment for organisations who want a glimpse into their access and inclusion practices across key business areas. Another step is to simply survey your team, and customers, on their experience of your business's diversity.


Create an inclusive culture and environment

Design diversity policies and implement them in line with the business's goals. This can include hiring processes, diversity education and training, flexible working options, team building and regular progress reviews. Set clear, achieveable goals, and follow through to achieve 'buy-in' from staff.


Change how you recruit

The obvious next step is to hire more employees from a variety of backgrounds. Businesses should be careful to avoid the appearance of tokenism, where a single person's background differs from the rest. Instead of trying to make up the numbers, target a specific background or skill set that align with a business goal or opportunity, such as connecting with a local ethnic group or adjusting a role to allow for candidates who require flexible working practices due to disability. Consider employing a diversity confident recruiter to match a suitable candidate to a specific role, and support both parties throughout the process.

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