Staying committed to hiring people with disabilities

Pan Pacific group shows the way with 26 such staff; employers urged to tap subsidies

Mr Danial Affandy, 20, who is intellectually disabled, has been working at the Pan Pacific Singapore since 2018 and enjoys his job operating and maintaining cleaning equipment.
Mr Danial Affandy, 20, who is intellectually disabled, has been working at the Pan Pacific Singapore since 2018 and enjoys his job operating and maintaining cleaning equipment. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Business at the Pan Pacific Hotels Group has taken a significant hit from the coronavirus outbreak, but it remains committed to hiring people with disabilities, said its executive director (asset, lifestyle and CSR) Wee Wei Ling.

It now has 26 staff with disabilities working in different roles, from housekeeping to administrative work, in four of its hotels and one service-suites facility here. Another nine people with disabilities are undergoing traineeship this year, instead of five as originally planned.

"It (business) is very bad. But we will still continue and not KIV this project (to hire people with disabilities). This is part of our long-term sustainability project," Ms Wee said. "We believe they are part of us and we should give them the chance to earn a living."

During the downturn, the group is sending its staff - both able-bodied and those with disabilities - for training, tapping the Open Door programme which encourages employers to hire people with disabilities through training grants and job support services, among other things.

For example, up to 90 per cent of the course fees will be subsidised for firms which send staff for eligible training courses. From July 1, the subsidy will increase to 95 per cent.

Ms Wee spoke to reporters after Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State for Manpower and National Development, toured Pan Pacific Singapore and spoke to its staff with disabilities yesterday.

After his visit, Mr Zaqy urged more employers to consider hiring people with disabilities, given all the government incentives to help them do so.

These include the new Enabling Employment Credit, where employers will get help to offset up to 20 per cent of the salary of an eligible staff member with disability, capped at $400 a month.

When asked if the Manpower Ministry will continue to promote the hiring of people with disabilities during the economic slowdown, Mr Zaqy said: "For sure, it is something we are going to push. I understand that some companies may find it difficult to cater to this but, over time, if you look at the kind of subsidies and grants we have, you may find it useful and helpful, especially given some of the shortages we are seeing now with workers."

On Wednesday last week, President Halimah Yacob launched the President's Challenge Enabling Employment Pledge and over 100 employers pledged to build a more inclusive workforce for those with disabilities. The President's Office and the public service were the first signatories of the pledge, and others included the Pan Pacific Hotels Group.

Mr Danial Affandy, a 20-year-old who is intellectually disabled, has been working at the Pan Pacific Singapore since 2018, and he operates and maintains cleaning equipment. He went through a six-month training stint and enjoys working at the hotel.

He said: "My colleagues are very good and I like to earn money."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2020, with the headline Staying committed to hiring people with disabilities. Subscribe