More incentives to get firms to hire people with disabilities

Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee (centre, with tie) posing for a group picture with other attendees at the Enabling Employers Awards on July 26, 2019. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - More incentives have been put in place to encourage companies to be more inclusive in their hiring practices.

The Housing Board will offer discounted rentals for shop allocation to all social enterprises that are members of the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE).

Previously, the HDB only extended this scheme to new social enterprises that receive competitive grant funding from raiSE.

The expanded scheme, which takes effect from Friday (July 26), will be open to a much larger pool of around 350 social enterprises.

A pilot programme has also been launched to allow businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises, to apply through SG Enable for direct allocation of HDB shop space if they commit to hiring a workforce where at least 20 per cent are people with disabilities.

SMEs will enjoy a 20 per cent rent discount for the first three years of tenancy.

These measures were announced by Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee at the biennial Enabling Employers Awards held on Friday at Pan Pacific Hotel.

The event, which started in 2011, is organised by SG Enable and recognises organisations and individuals who have committed to integrating people with disabilities in the workforce.

Mr Lee told the gathering: "We want to further strengthen our support for inclusive employers like you, who understand and believe in the value that employees with disabilities bring to your organisations."

He added that the HDB, SG Enable and raiSE are pushing for more job opportunities for people with disabilities by initiating the two changes.

"We hope that this will make it even easier for social enterprises and businesses who hire persons with disabilities to start up in our housing estates and neighbourhoods, bringing jobs closer to the community."

Mr Lee added the government has launched the pilot programme because it recognised that apart from social enterprises, there are a growing number of businesses that are taking meaningful steps to hire people with disabilities.

The minister also presented a record number of awards this year, with 111 winners, up 50 per cent from 2017.

One winner was the Siloso Beach Resort, which received the highest accolade together with the National Library Board, after engaging about 20 employees with disabilities who undertake roles such as waiters, housekeepers and telephone operators.

Managing director Kelvin Ng said the resort made physical accommodations such as switching to plastic plates and glasses as well as providing a longer and more structured training period for staff with disabilities.

"We are very happy with the progress of our initiative to hire persons with disabilities, especially seeing the benefits in their lives," he added.

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