Mertl: Here are 10 Reasons to Hire Workers With Disabilities

Kelly Mertl
Published on: April 24, 2016

In Ottawa, people who live with disabilities are often underemployed and only 43 per cent participate in the labour market, compared to 70 per cent of the general population.

With an aging workforce and shortage of young skilled workers, employees with disabilities offer a large untapped talent pool for employers.

So in 2010, United Way Ottawa brought local employers, service providers, and job seekers together to create the Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN). The network has one key goal: help people with disabilities find meaningful employment.

After 1,300 job matches, we’ve learned 10 important lessons about why hiring a person with a disability is both good for business and the community.

It’s not about charity. Studies show that employees with disabilities are often more productive, dependable and loyal. Staff retention is also 72 per cent higher than co-workers without disabilities.

Your business will benefit. Employers who hire people with disabilities report a stronger connection to the community and often an increase in new business.

Your team will like it. One study found that 70 per cent of those aged 18 to 26 say a company’s commitment to the community, including the hiring of a diverse workforce, has an influence on their decision to work there.

The cost is minimal. In a study of almost 2,000 employers, 57 per cent said the accommodations needed by employees with disabilities cost absolutely nothing, while 37 per cent reported a one-time cost.

Many employees with disabilities are highly skilled. More than 50 per cent of individuals with disabilities have high school diplomas and more than one-third have completed post-secondary education. In fact, individuals with disabilities are two-thirds as likely to have a post-secondary diploma than adults in Canada without a disability.

Performance is the same or better. Employees with disabilities who receive the necessary training should not require any more help than their non-disabled counterparts. For the most part, individuals with disabilities have adapted to the challenges that their disability might bring to their lives and are able to complete their work without any assistance.

There are different types of accommodation. Only six per cent of people with disabilities use a wheelchair. While it is important to be accessible to the community, if your organization isn’t quite there yet, there are still many people with disabilities that could easily join your team.

Employees with disabilities are productive. Research shows no job performance difference between employees with disabilities and their non-disabled colleagues. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, employees with disabilities fall under the same rules as employees without disabilities when it comes to lawful termination, which means they are no more difficult to dismiss than any other employee group.

Your insurance rates won’t increase. An employer’s insurance rates are based on the risks associated with the organization’s accident history, not whether some of their staff members have a disability.

Attendance is better. Studies show that employees with disabilities do not miss work more than their colleagues. Instead, they tend to have better attendance than their non-disabled co-workers.

By providing employment opportunities to people with disabilities, not only are we giving them a pathway out of poverty, we are helping employers access a virtually untapped talent pool to increase their likelihood of getting the right person for the job.

If you want to learn more about how your business can benefit from hiring people with disabilities, visit

Kelly Mertl is director of community initiatives at United Way Ottawa.

Reproduced from