Does the employment environment further disable people with disabilities? : a study of selected Christchurch employers and their perspectives of the employment situation for people with disabilities
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This study examined the employment experiences of people with disabilities and focused specifically on the service industries. In the research (predominantly overseas based) it has been noted that people with disabilities generally have greater difficulties obtaining and retaining employment and so are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed. Many factors contribute to this situation, but of particular interest to this study were the attitudes and behaviour of employers. Attitudes seemed to vary according to the type of disability and whether or not the employer had had experience of employing people with disabilities. Those with negative attitudes tended to behave in a more discriminatory manner. The discrimination shown to people with disabilities who seek employment has led to the recognition that they are part of what has been termed minority groups. Those groups will hopefully benefit from anti-discrimination legislation such as the Human Rights Act 1993.
By means of a questionnaire, a selection of Christchurch employers were surveyed to see what the employment situation was for people with disabilities. The major findings were as follows.
In relation to the attitude factors, employers with experience of employing people with disabilities generally displayed more positive attitudes than did those with no experience. Significantly more employers with experience expressed a greater willingness to employ people with disabilities, had incorporated disability into Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policies, and were prepared to make modification to the workplace. However, there was little difference in the ratings given by employers regarding the importance of certain selection criteria, indicating that employers placed great importance on the selection criteria. Although not significant, attitudes were also found to vary according to the type of disability (obvious versus non-obvious) in relation to the position held by the employee with a disability. So those with obvious disabilities were less likely to have jobs which required face-to-face and phone contact with customers, clients or the public.
General information on the employment of people with disabilities was also obtained. Occupations held by people with disabilities varied between men and women. Women with disabilities were more often in clerical positions, while men worked as technicians, associate professionals, plant and machine assemblers and elementary workers. Larger organisations were found to be more likely to employ people with disabilities.
Even though employers with experience were generally more receptive to employing people with disabilities, some still held negative attitudes. It is fair to say that people with disabilities did experience difficulties in employment as a result of the employment environment. As EEO policies increase and anti-discrimination legislation is implemented, these problems will hopefully be addressed. However, it will take more than new laws and policies to change the employment situation faced by people with disabilities. Fundamental social, economic and political changes are called for if the constraints which society places on people with disabilities are to be overcome. In the meantime, these constraints have the effect of compounding the disablement of people with disabilities who seek employment.