A trainer at Marriot hotels provides baking lessons to three disabled trainees.

Most companies want to make a profit and do the right thing. In their role as an employer, companies seek to comply with labour laws and requirements, including non-discrimination laws or quota systems that promote the hiring of disabled employees or protect their rights on the job.  As companies gain experience with a more diverse workplace, many are learning the benefits of hiring people with disabilities or what has become known as the business case for hiring people with disabilities.

The human rights case for hiring people with disabilities suggests that people with disabilities should receive equal treatment and equal opportunity in the workplace and throughout society. These equality principles are enshrined in many international conventions and standards, including ILO Convention 159 on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled) and ILO Convention 111 which addresses non-discrimination in occupation.

The most recent international standard having a direct impact on the human rights of persons with disabilities is the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). It requires that States Parties (governments) recognize the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in the labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities. The UNCRPD also calls for the use of reasonable accommodation to promote equality and eliminate discrimination. This includes in the workplace.

As governments begin to implement the UNCRPD, non-discrimination legislation and reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities can be expected to become legally mandated and more commonplace. Companies that need guidance on how to promote equal opportunity and equal treatment in the workplace should review the ILO Code of practice for managing disability in the workplace. And those who need assistance in implementing the principles through practical actions should join the ILO Global Business and Disability Network to learn from peers, disabled persons' organizations and other experts.

The human rights case is only part of the story about hiring people with disabilities. In today's global economy, managing a diverse labor force, inclusive of disabled persons, provides significant advantages in improving a company's efficiency, productivity, competitiveness and overall success --- often referred to as the business case. The business benefits for employing people with disabilities have been documented in many business examples and can be summarized as follows:

  • People with disabilities make good, dependable employees.
  • People with disabilities are more likely to stay on the job---that is, they have higher retention rates.
  • Hiring people with disabilities increases workforce morale. Many employers report that teamwork and morale improves when disabled workers become part of the staff.
  • People with disabilities are an untapped resource of skills and talents.
  • Consumers are likely to look favourably upon businesses that employ people with disabilities and would even consider switching brands on this basis.
  • People with disabilities represent an overlooked and multibillion-dollar market segment that not only includes the person with a disability but his or her family and friends.

By advocating the business and human rights cases for hiring people with disabilities, the ILO Global Business and Disability Network aims to promote and facilitate disability diversity in the workplace and assist companies maximize the potential of their workforce and their bottom line. 


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