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Maine Employer Practices and Attitudes Regarding Employing People with Disabilities. The CHOICES CEO Project Muskie School, University of Southern Maine and Planning Decisions, Inc. Purpose of Research. In an environment of limited federal funds and

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Maine employer practices and attitudes regarding employing people with disabilities l.jpg

Maine Employer Practices and Attitudes Regarding Employing People with Disabilities

The CHOICES CEO Project

Muskie School, University of Southern Maine

and Planning Decisions, Inc.


Purpose of research l.jpg
Purpose of Research People with Disabilities

In an environment of

  • limited federal funds and

  • a general dislike of government regulations

    -- if we want to increase employment for people with disabilities, we need to work with the private sector

    This requires an understanding of where they are coming from. That is the purpose of this research.


The research has included a census review employer surveys and focus groups l.jpg
The research has included a Census review, employer surveys, and focus groups

  • 2000 Census data

  • 2 annual surveys of 400 business owners and managers

  • focus groups

    • 2 with placement workers for people with disabilities

    • 1 with HR managers of Maine businesses

    • 1 with temporary staffing agencies

    • 1 with small business managers



Slide5 l.jpg

1 in 3 with self-care, mental, or physical disabilities have jobs; 1 in 2 with sensory or employment-related disabilities (2000 Census, Maine)


1 in 6 young adults with disabilities appears to be drifting 2000 census maine l.jpg
1 in 6 young adults with disabilities appears to be “drifting”(2000 Census, Maine)


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Survey research of Maine business owners “drifting”

  • Two surveys – one in 2005, one in 2006

  • Sample of 400 Maine business owners or managers

  • Two purposes:

    • What is going on in market? How many employers are (knowingly) hiring people with disabilities?

    • What are obstacles to hiring? What might be incentives?





The reason for the nervousness fear that they can t do the job 2005 data l.jpg
The reason for the nervousness? disabilitiesFear that they can’t do the job(2005 data)


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For some it’s an untested belief disabilities

  • “We perform office work and field work in heavily wooded areas. Employees need to be able to do both in a safe and efficient way without direct supervision.”

  • “This is not a babysitting service. I need physically fit people of a clear and conscious mind.”

  • “I don’t have many people who apply for this job with a disability. The greatest barrier is my own prejudice.”


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For others it is based on a bad experience disabilities

  • “We hired a fellow with a mental disability over the past several years. Our difficulty was in having enough people to allow someone to oversee him.”

  • “We are a small company with few options. However, we attempted to hire a blind worker. It was simply not possible.”

  • “I have only a few employees and I tried in the past but transportation to the job was an issue; they just couldn’t get here.”

  • “I can’t name a specific barrier. I’ve tried in the past, but employees have not worked out. I will try again.”


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Some have had good experiences disabilities

  • ”There is no barrier. That is why I have them. Both mentally and physically disabled.”

  • “So far it’s worked out fine. A woman who works for me has asthma and emphysema and she does quite well with the customers. Another woman I have has MS and she wears two hearing aids, so she can’t answer the phone but does quite well otherwise. So there’s no difficulty with these workers or barriers.”


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Others are afraid of lawsuits and costs disabilities

  • “I fear litigation for discrimination if someone is discharged for cause.”

  • “’I fear costs associated with increased Workers’ Comp exposure and increased absenteeism.”


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What would help? disabilitiesMost employers have no idea

The most frequent suggestions were...

  • 6% -- tax incentives, financial subsidies

  • 5% -- training for people with disabilities

  • 2% -- job matching/placement services

  • 2% -- reduce regulations, workers compensation

    Most with an opinion were from larger companies.

    Small business owners had few suggestions.


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Lesson 1: Education is needed disabilities

Most small business people have little experience with people with disabilities, and many feel that people with disabilities cannot do the work.

Therefore, education about the capabilities of people with disabilities is an important first step


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Lesson 2: Support and backup can provide reassurance to nervous employers

For businesses interested in employing people with disabilities, readily-available and usable information on programs and legal issues is important, as is personal support from referring agencies.

These matter more than financial subsidies.


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Focus Group findings nervous employers

Needs of Private Human Resource Managers

  • Reliable public or nonprofit sector partner

  • Support services for the employee

  • Clarity & protection around liability issues

  • Training for other employees

  • 1-800 help & info line

  • Provision of health insurance


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Focus group findings (2) nervous employers

Views of Public Sector Placement Officials

  • Attitude of employer determines success

  • Partnership with employer essential

  • Temporary employment useful to reduce risks

  • Even bad jobs can build a resume

  • Need to get rid of waiting lists

  • General public education needed


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Focus group findings (3) nervous employers

Temporary staffing service views

Temporary services commonly used by employers as a way to “try out” employees at low risk –

but disabilities system does not recognize temporary work as a successful case outcome, and therefore case workers are not motivated to pursue these temporary jobs!


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3 Themes from research nervous employers

  • The importance of changing employer attitudes – without which more money and programs won’t make a difference.

  • The necessity of creating public-private partnerships, based on personal connections, that include temporary staffing companies

  • The need for quick, reliable, trustworthy answers to questions about liabilities, programs


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For more information nervous employers

The Maine Choices project is described fully at:

  • http://choices.muskie.usm.maine.edu/

    The first year employment research report can be found at:

  • http://choices.muskie.usm.maine.edu/ProductsEvents/emp_practices.doc


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