More firms keen to hire those with disabilities

VWOs say training, job support, govt schemes help raise employment rates for this group

Despite suffering from a haemorrhagic stroke in 2014 which caused him to lose control of his left hand, 22-year-old Lee Yong Jie was hired as a systems developer in a software company just a year later.

He was among 200 people who found work through the SPD's employment support programme in the 2015 financial year, a rise of over 50 per cent from the year before.

SPD, formally known as Society for the Physically Disabled, helps people with disabilities find employment. Other voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) catering to the disabled are also seeing higher employment rates, saying more companies are keen to hire their clients.

The Autism Resource Centre (ARC) had nine firms hiring its clients last year, up from four in 2012.

Mr Abhimanyau Pal, the SPD's executive director, said the schemes introduced to encourage inclusive hiring practices have helped. "Initiatives such as the Special Employment Credit (SEC) make it more attractive for companies to hire people with disabilities," he said.

Under the SEC, the Government pays up to 16 per cent of the salary of older workers and those with physical or intellectual disabilities earning up to $4,000 a month.

The ARC's deputy director, Ms Jacelyn Lim, said that training and job support are more readily available now, citing the ARC's Employability and Employment Centre as one such service that prepares people with autism for the workforce.

"We look for jobs that capitalise on their strengths and equip them with the necessary skills," she said. "For example, data entry jobs which require attention to detail are more suitable (for people with autism) than front desk jobs that involve lots of communication with customers and unexpected situations."

While more firms are aware of the work capabilities of the disabled, Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore chief executive Keh Eng Song believes more can be done to help them integrate into the workplace.

"Many a time, the upper management of a company, sincere as they may be in wanting to integrate people with intellectual disabilities in their workforce, fail to garner support from their co-workers and supervisors in mentoring and being patient with them.

"Clients should be open to jobs in the food and beverage sector and travel out of their residence to work, as Singapore is very accessible."

Many companies have moved towards a more inclusive workforce by adopting age-friendly hiring practices as well.

Fast food chain McDonald's has more than 3,000 staff aged over 50. A spokesman said the company "uses visuals in instructional guides, and cash registers are designed with pictures of menu items for easy order-taking".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 01, 2016, with the headline More firms keen to hire those with disabilities. Subscribe