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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 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 • 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 • 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
As is true everywhere, fewer people with disabilities are employed in Maine(2000 Census)
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)
Survey research of Maine business owners • 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?
About 1 in 7 employers report employing someone with disabilities
The likelihood of employing someone with disabilities increases with size
2 in 5 employers admit reluctance to hire a person with disabilities(2006 data)
The reason for the nervousness?Fear that they can’t do the job(2005 data)
For some it’s an untested belief • “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.”
For others it is based on a bad experience • “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.”
Some have had good experiences • ”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.”
Others are afraid of lawsuits and costs • “I fear litigation for discrimination if someone is discharged for cause.” • “’I fear costs associated with increased Workers’ Comp exposure and increased absenteeism.”
What would help? Most 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.
Lesson 1: Education is needed 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
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.
Focus Group findings 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
Focus group findings (2) 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
Focus group findings (3) 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!
3 Themes from research • 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
For more information 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