Issue: June/August 09
Edutorials
Old Mutual Corporate

OVERCOMING DISABILITY IN THE WORKPLACE



John Kotze...world-class good practice

As an estimated 12% of our population are persons with a disability, employers need to see disability as a natural part of life and business. That is according to John Kotze, head of Group Assurance at Old Mutual South Africa. Employers and persons with disabilities need to work together to find solutions for employees who return to the workplace after an injury or illness.

Contributing to the economy of our country will also reduce the isolation and financial hardship that this group often experiences.

Internationally, there is an increased focus on improving access to work for persons with disability. A recent American study of 778 employers found that accommodating disabled people need not be expensive:

  • In 50,5% of cases, reasonable accommodation was done at no cost;
  • In 42% of cases, there was an average once-off cost equal to 1,25% of the employee’s annual salary;
  • In 7,5% of the cases, there was an average annual cost equal to 1% of the employee’s annual salary.

Kotze says South Africa has a world-class code of good practice, attached to the Employment Equity Act, on how to integrate persons with disability in the workplace. “A key aspect of the code deals with how to customise the work situation to bridge any gap between the person’s ability and the work environment or job requirements. For example, all people with mobility problems value level spaces, lifts and ramps.”

This code underlines that persons with disabilities are just like those without disabilities, and have the same rights. “For many people, this will require a paradigm shift in attitude where persons with disability have historically been excluded from participation in society. They had limited access to transport, education and training, and were not integrated into the everyday activities of society,” concludes Kotze

CASE STUDY – What an employer did to overcome disability in the workplace

Challenging myths

A 29-year-old supervisor in a supermarket injured her back when she picked up a crate of meat. She received comprehensive treatment for the injury. Though she recovered well, her previous job was now unsuitable. The employer and employee agreed on a functional capacity evaluation so that they could know exactly what her ability and limitations would be in the workplace.

Based on this information, they identified that she could be accommodated on the supermarket management programme as the physical requirements would be within her ability and she had the potential to work at managerial level.

This example debunks the myth that persons with disability can only work in low-level jobs.