Workbridge is the largest New Zealand-owned employment service for people with a disability or health condition.
In most cases employing a disabled person is no different to employing someone without a disability. Everyone in your workforce will benefit from responsive flexible management.
Training and performance standards related to disability for supervisors and managers will help disabled people to contribute their best to your business.
A booklet containing information on best practice approaches to working with disabled employees is available free from Workbridge; ask for the ‘Manager’s guide’. The guide contains information on the following areas:
- Induction period
- Managing performance
- Managing disability-related sickness absence
- Disciplinary and grievance procedures
- Promotion and ending employment
- Making reasonable accommodations.
There are some specific areas which can cause concern to managers who don’t have experience of disability. A little preparation and guidance can help you feel confident in managing people with disabilities.
Language and etiquette
People can often be concerned about the language to use with disabled people. The most important thing is to be respectful and treat people as individuals. Be guided by what they would find helpful. Some of the language around disability can be confusing. It can help to know some more appropriate language.
|Disabled person; person with a disability||Cripple; handicapped; the disabled|
|Wheelchair user; person using a wheelchair||Wheelchair bound; confined to a wheelchair|
|Person with an intellectual impairment or learning disability||Retarded; mentally handicapped|
|Person with a mental illness||Crazy; nuts; mental|
Remember: Try not to get hung up on language. As a rule of thumb you should describe people as they describe themselves. If in doubt, ask them.
For more tips, see the booklet “What did you say?” STOP Discriminatory Language by the New Zealand CCS Information Service.
Many disabled people do not feel confident in telling their employers, managers or colleagues about their disability. There may be situations where a manager thinks that a person may have a disability but is not sure.
It is important to respect the privacy of the person. Give them the opportunity to discuss any aspects of their disability which are relevant to work. If there are aspects of an employee’s work which are causing concern, consider whether disability may be a factor and ask the employee whether there is anything which could be done to make their job or a particular task easier to do.
Confidentiality and privacy
The Privacy Act 1993 protects personal information, including information about an employee’s disability. If an employee discloses that they have a disability, this information must be kept confidential. If others on the team need to know about the disability, discuss with the disabled employee who will be told and how this will be communicated. If informing team members about someone’s disability, focus on those aspects which affect how the job is done. Do not give other personal information which is not relevant to the job.
Providing disability awareness training for staff may be useful. This may be funded through Job Support.
Harassment and bullying
Disabled people can be at risk of harassment and bullying in the workplace. Ensure that all employees are aware that harassment is not tolerated, and that your workplace has an accessible complaints procedure available.