Irish Employers Prioritize Increasing Employment Rate for Persons with Disabilities
In an effort to improve the employment rate of persons with disabilities, especially young people, Irish employers are taking steps to address the issue. Ireland currently lags behind the EU average when it comes to employing people with disabilities, with a rate of just 32.6% compared to the EU average of 51%. This puts Ireland on par with Greece as the worst-performing country in Europe in terms of disability employment. However, given Ireland’s low general unemployment rate of 3.9%, questions arise as to why over 67% of people with disabilities in Ireland are unable to find work.
To address this issue, the European Commission has implemented a ten-year strategy aimed at promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. The strategy focuses on areas such as transportation, healthcare, and countering discrimination. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has highlighted the discrimination faced by young people with disabilities in the workplace, which often stems from stereotypes portraying them as unproductive. A survey conducted by Eurofound revealed that 27% of respondents with disabilities were unemployed, compared to 12% of respondents without disabilities. Additionally, 55% of young people with disabilities are considered financially fragile, compared to 38% of their peers without disabilities. The survey also found that respondents with disabilities were more likely to experience depression, feelings of exclusion, and a lack of optimism about the future. However, these figures tended to improve when respondents were employed.
At a recent EESC hearing, Anna Kwiatkiewicz-Mory of Business Europe emphasized the importance of providing targeted employment services for young people with disabilities. She stressed the need for a connection between services and education to prepare them for the job market. Meanwhile, in Ireland, over 60 companies signed up to the Elevate Pledge Annual Report by Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), demonstrating their commitment to diversifying their workforce. This pledge encompasses all forms of inclusion, not just disability. Participating companies include Bus Éireann, AIB, Diageo, Musgrave, Janssen, and PwC, among others. However, a survey conducted by BITCI revealed that employees are reluctant to disclose disabilities, with less than 1% doing so compared to an expected rate of 7%. Similarly, only 1.7% of employees disclosed an ethnicity other than white, compared to an expectation of 15%. These findings highlight the need for companies to actively promote inclusion and create an environment where employees feel comfortable disclosing their disabilities.
Bank of Ireland has launched an inclusion campaign to address barriers to careers in banking. The campaign focuses on enhancing socio-economic diversity, accessibility, ethnic minority representation, and gender balance within the bank. The bank has also stated that a leaving certificate or college degree is not required for most positions. To attract more ethnic minority candidates, the bank is launching a marketing campaign for frontline customer-facing roles. Additionally, the bank is partnering with DCU’s Access Programme to offer paid internships to students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The bank is also providing work placements and internships for students and graduates of the Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities (TCPID).
In another positive development, Belfast City Council and Queen’s University Belfast have established a partnership to remove barriers to employment for 15 people in Belfast with few or no qualifications. These individuals will secure administrative roles at the university through the Business Services Employment Academy. The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Ryan Murphy, highlighted the academy’s goal of helping residents achieve their full potential and access rewarding jobs.
Efforts by Irish employers and organizations are crucial in improving the employment rate for persons with disabilities. By prioritizing inclusion and creating targeted employment services, companies can help bridge the gap and provide equal opportunities for all individuals in society.