Building an Inclusive Workplace
by Abner Manlapaz
Republic Act No. 7277 or the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities says that private corporations are encouraged to reserve 1 percent of all positions for persons with disabilities. Also, discriminatory practices in job application procedure, hiring, promotion or discharge of employees, compensation, and training and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment are prohibited.
However, persons with disabilities continue to face barriers when they apply for job. Oftentimes, hiring procedures are the first stumbling block preventing employment of persons with disabilities in open employment. Discrimination can be directly or indirectly where the latter is difficult to identify.
Usually, the hiring procedures up to retaining of persons with disabilities did not consider persons with disabilities in the workforce. Over the years, resources to help companies to build inclusive workplaces are increasing. Diversifying the workforce of the company increases the morale and productivity thereby benefiting the business. When the workplace employs inclusive recruitment process, it does not only reduce possibility of disability-based discrimination, but, it enables employers to reach more highly qualified applicants.
Generally, building an inclusive workplace requires that there has to be a review of accessibility for wheelchair users and other mobility related impairments, for people with visual impairments and as well as information and communication. It is critical that the application process is fully accessible and that all candidates are asked if they have specific requirements at each stage of the interview process. It is very important that whenever we want to provide help, we should ask them first, not forcing them to accept the help. We can only offer not force. Talk directly to the person and respect their identity including their personal space. When you are in doubt, all you have to do is ask.
To build an inclusive workplace, clear commitment from the top down is central to ensure that policies and procedures support diversity, anti-discrimination and anti-harassment. This includes that all staffs including volunteers are held accountable for their behaviour and actions. Providing training and awareness to all staffs will strengthen the inclusiveness of the workplace.
One of the key elements in building an inclusive workplace is the accommodation that an employee may require to reach their full potential. Accommodation can be making changes to work areas, considering technological modifications, making information accessible in alternative formats, making changes to tasks or working hours and many others. What is important is to ask what kind of accommodation is required to support the employee. It is very important that the accommodation is based on the agreement between the employer and the employee to ensure that it is appropriate to the requirement of the employee requiring the accommodation.
Ideally, local advocacy group should be contacted to help the company during the transition to a more inclusive workforce. During the recruitment and selection process, it is important to focus on the skills, abilities, expectations and desired outcomes. When a schedule for an interview is being arranged, ask if the applicant needs any accommodation. Make sure that the interview site is accessible. Things like bias-free recruitment and selection process, references to disabilities in the company’s workforce diversity policies, looking beyond traditional or mainstream sources for job applicants, posting job advertisement in alternative formats helps diversify the kind of applicants and employees the company will be getting.
Once the person with disabilities was employed, review the job profile and determine what parts of the job the employee can do without accommodation. Then move on to determine what accommodations can be made to support the employee in doing other aspects of the job. Some examples of the accommodation in the workplace includes providing adaptive technology, appropriate workspaces and furnishings, converting printed materials to alternative media, reader services for employees who are blind, attendant services, interpreters for the deaf, a quiet workspace, flexible work arrangements, frequent breaks, etc. Do not purchase special equipment without consulting the user of the equipment. Accommodation is provided based on dialogue between the person needing the accommodation and the employer providing the accommodation. It is also necessary to prepare the staffs before the new employee with disabilities start to work. Building the comfort level of everyone is essential to building an inclusive workplace.
The employer should encourage the employee with disabilities to educate other staff about their disability. Including staff with disabilities in decision-making and in social activities demonstrates the commitment of the company to inclusion of person with disabilities. Cultivating a culture of trust amongst staff and supporting senior staff so that they are in position to support a diverse and inclusive workplace will greatly contribute to the intention of the company to have an inclusive workplace.
R.A. No. 7277
R.A. No. 10524
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