Bizlink to pay its disabled employees a basic 'living' wage of $450 a month

The largest employer of the disabled in the people sector has committed to paying its workers with disabilities a basic living wage.

Bizlink Centre, a non-profit organisation which hires about 300 people with disabilities and from disadvantaged backgrounds, intends to pay its workers at least $450 a month.

That is the amount a single-person household gets under the government's Public Assistance scheme and Bizlink intends to follow this benchmark.

Bizlink's commitment comes after it released on Friday a two-year study conducted in partnership with the NUS Chua Thian Poh Community Programme to gauge the quality of life and financial well-being of its clients.

"We wanted to institute a living wage to encourage those who can work to work at a pace they can because the study shows that there are intrinsic benefits to work apart from earning an income," said Mr Alvin Lim, chief executive of Bizlink.

The study measured how satisfied its workers are in areas such as standard of living, health, achievements, relationships, safety, community connnectedness and future security.

It found that its workers had significantly higher levels of contentment in all aspects - except health, achievements and future security - compared to the disabled who were unemployed.

The study also looked into developing a renumeration system that is based on the workers' productivity and proposed topping up the wages of those who fall below a certain amount.

Currently, the average pay of Bizlink's workers is $563, excluding bonuses, workfare and other benefits.

Of its 146 disabled workers , 46 of them earn less than $450 a month.

For a start, Bizlink will have a wage supplement top-up for 10 of its workers so that they will be paid at least $450 a month.

To help those who are unable to work but can still enjoy the benefits of work, the organisation also launched a work therapy programme.

It is a pilot programme where ageing clients can learn to tie ribbons or paint festive decorations, for example, to keep their fingers and minds nimble.

The aim is to offer more options beyond what is available now: day care services for those who are not able to work and sheltered workshops for those who can.

"Bizlink clients understand and accept that there are limitations to their work performance and productivity level," said Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin at the launch of the work therapy programme.

"Hence, they have more realistic expectations about their wages. They are also content with being able to work and being part of a community that they can turn to when in need."