CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Think Beyond the Label, a cross-sector collaborative that connects qualified job seekers with disabilities to U.S. businesses that seek to hire them, supports the U.S. Department of Labor’s updated federal rules related to hiring workers with disabilities that include specific actions federal contractors must take in the areas of recruitment, training, record keeping and policy dissemination – similar to those that have long been required to promote workplace equality for women and minorities. A key component of the rule establishes, for the first time, hiring goals for federal contractors and subcontractors that 7 percent of each job group in their workforce be qualified individuals with disabilities.
“With 57 million Americans disclosing a disability, the workforce is already comprised of millions of people with disabilities. Using disability-friendly outreach, recruitment strategies and workplace initiatives—such as encouraging disclosure—employers can readily meet this diversity need.”
“We are pleased these long-awaited rules have finally been released,” comments Barbara Otto, CEO of Health & Disability Advocates, the Chicago-based social sector partner that powers Think Beyond the Label. “Companies have been anticipating a change in the rule; now that it’s settled, we can all start working together to evolve the workforce. People with disabilities are really the last frontier for workplace equality. They represent millions of Americans who are ready, willing and qualified to work – they just happen to have a disability.”
How Think Beyond the Label helps
Think Beyond the Label connects employers to thousands of qualified job seekers with disabilities through its virtual career fairs, online jobs portal, social platforms and community profiles. The Think Beyond the Label Online Career Fair Series is in its second year. On average, approximately 365 qualified job seekers with disabilities register for the Online Career Fairs along with 20 employer participants – which range from government agencies and top global corporations to colleges and universities – including The Boeing Company, The Internal Revenue Service, The Hartford, AT&T, Union Pacific, IBM, Merck, Aetna, Graybar, Qualcomm, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, University of Southern California and many others. The Think Beyond the Label Online Career Fairs are hosted quarterly and are powered by our partner Brazen Careerist. The next fair is scheduled for October 22. Business and job seekers can register online.
Think Beyond the Label also provides online business training to help employers around the country navigate and understand what they need to do to meet Section 503 requirements – including a series of educational webinars followed by ongoing team consultation and support. These webinars are free for employers and are approved for one general credit hour toward PHR, SPHR and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute. More than 150 recruiters attended Think Beyond the Label’s most recent business training webinar, entitled Best Practices in Disability Recruiting, earlier this year.
Strong business case for hiring qualified workers with disabilities
While this new rule is largely seen as a compliance issue, Otto sees it as a wake-up call for employers on the many benefits of hiring qualified workers with disabilities. For example, people with disabilities have had to adapt and creatively solve problems that others haven’t faced, and thus have innovative thinking and fresh perspectives that organizations need and that are valuable for product development, marketing, employee recruitment and enhancing teams, she adds.
“If companies want to hire someone who thinks outside the box, they should hire someone who lives outside of the box…a person with a disability,” Otto says.
Other examples of the business case for hiring qualified workers with disabilities include:
- By casting a wider recruiting net, companies will expand their talent pool to and find the best possible candidate for the job
- Companies that diversify their workforces improve overall morale
- Recent research that reviewed 90 studies revealed that employees with a disability have better safety records, equal or better turnover and absentee rates, equal or better job assignment flexibility and better than average attendance rates compared with non-disabled employees
- Recent entrants to the workforce are increasingly seeking out work at companies that possess a strong social conscience, which includes hiring people with disabilities
Addressing employer concerns
While many employers feel this change will lead to heavy administrative burdens, Otto says organizations like Think Beyond the Label can help employers manage the initial changes, which will lead to a more systemic approach that helps build more diversity into our nation's workforce. This includes people with disabilities, who are underemployed but highly qualified.
“Businesses need not fear this ruling,” Otto says. “With 57 million Americans disclosing a disability, the workforce is already comprised of millions of people with disabilities. Using disability-friendly outreach, recruitment strategies and workplace initiatives—such as encouraging disclosure—employers can readily meet this diversity need.”
Background on the ruling
The U.S. Labor Department updated Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, introducing specific actions contractors must take in the areas of recruitment, training, record keeping and policy dissemination related to workers with disabilities - similar to those that have long been required to promote workplace equality for women and minorities.
About Think Beyond the Label
Think Beyond the Label is a cross-sector collaborative that helps businesses and the public workforce system more effectively recruit, hire and retain job seekers with disabilities across 50 states. Think Beyond the Label connects the entire range of job seekers with disabilities to employers looking to hire through its virtual career fairs, online jobs portal, social platforms and community profiles. Our cross-sector partnership spans state health and human service and employment agencies; businesses; and Health & Disability Advocates, a national private nonprofit organization focused on the intersection of health and economic security. HDA powers the Think Beyond the Label partnership. For more information please visit www.thinkbeyondthelabel.com. Think Beyond the Label’s next online career fair is October 22. Businesses and job seekers can register now.