Written by: Jayashree Mohan
It’s a random weekday morning, you’re gearing your brain to take on a list of tasks you must complete by the end of the day – naturally, you pick up your phone and endlessly scroll through your social media feed. You chance upon a post by a business account captioned something along the lines of a disabled person getting employed and excelling in their new role. You instantly feel a jolt of motivation and carry on with the rest of your day.
Now, imagine if every single person out there, had the opportunity to be included in a role that would allow them to showcase their abilities - that would be an amazing thing to behold. Alas, aligning business strategies with a diverse workforce encompassing PWDs, is hardly ever the top agenda for most profit-making organisations – but why? More importantly, why should such organisations aspire to diversify their workforce?
Apart from the obvious cost factors, according to Kulkarni & Valk (2010), problems arise when organisations do not have adequate knowledge and skills in managing disabled employees. For instance, there may be limited policies and practices in place to manage this segment of the workforce. Consequently, most organisations that do have a small minority of PWDs in their employee workforce, tend to rely on personal experience or more conventionally, a self-taught approach towards overseeing PWDs.
Despite these notions that employers may have about hiring PWDs, what are some underlying benefits that should be at the forefront of discussions on this topic?
1. Tax Incentives
In Malaysia, there are a handful of incentives in place to highlight the government’s initiatives concerning the opportunity of PWDs to gain access to a welcoming job market. For example, the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) has noted that employers are eligible for benefits when hiring PWDs, including double tax deductions, tax rebate on the costs of modifying facilities for the disabled and training grants incentives under the OKU Talent Enhancement Programme.
2. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices
Looking back to a time where ESG considerations were mostly prevalent in developed regions in the West, to the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) recently declaring to make all its investments based on ESG practices by 2030, it awaits to be seen how the corporate climate in Malaysia will coalesce to work around ESG initiatives. On the PWD employment front, it is crucial that employers do not just pay lip service about being diverse and inclusive but should devise a competent strategy that will support its corporate purpose. Further, a growing young investment-savvy population are looking for causes that are resilient, purposeful and aligns with their personal beliefs.
Big names like Starbucks and McDonalds have recently been applauded for hiring PWDs in customer service roles to backend developers. It is only a matter of time before other local companies follow suit.
3. Higher Job Retention Rates
According to a ‘retention rate of employees’ study conducted by The Chicago Lighthouse in its Illinois Tollway Customer Care Center in 2016, it found that employees with disabilities had a retention rate of 1.7 years, as opposed to their non-disabled counterpart, which only had a retention rate of 10 months. Reasons may accrue to the fact that PWDs may not have as wide a scope of job options, or on a more positive light, they have a higher level of dedication and perseverance to their commitments. This in turn, will reduce costs related to retraining and recruitment of replacements, for employers!
4. Represents an overlooked market segment
According to the Department of Social Welfare (Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat), as of 31st of December 2019, there are approximately 548,186 REGISTERED disabled individuals in Malaysia. In a similar vein, The World Bank estimates that between 110 million and 190 million people
globally, experience significant disabilities.
Bearing in mind, these are registered disabled individuals and those accounted for in statistics, PWDs have deep insights to offer when it comes to strategies and business modelling. Ideas pertaining to accessibility and disability inclusion, can translate into business revenue, gaining multiple clients, and ultimately, a better reputation of the business.
5. PWDs are as capable as everyone else!
Quoting Amanda Kong from the Brickfields Asia College’s CSR Initiative; the Make It Right Movement, “it is not that a person is disabled, but the environment which disables a person.” Depending on the nature of their disability or impairment, with the right technological investments, adaptive techniques, and proper management, PWDs have a wide breadth of untapped potential which will create long-term value for businesses.
Lee Thiam Wah, founder of 99Speedmart for instance, has never allowed his wheelchair-bound situation to get in the way of his success. With over 800 stores spread across the country, he is a revered business mogul that is soaring greater heights by the day.
While there are far too many benefits to be listed in this article, it is hoped that some light has been shed on the benefits of including PWDs in the workforce. If anyone knows the sheer strength it takes to survive and persevere in adversity, it is PWDs. As a community with volumes of virtues to seize the day, it is in our collective interest to take bold action and create equal opportunities for our disabled peers.
On that note, if you wish to make a substantial difference in your business purpose, or are looking to hire unwavering potential, drop us a message at
firstname.lastname@example.org (Rachel) and we will get in touch with you!