DEASP Report

DEASP REPORT: 30th May 2018

The Employer Disability Information (EDI) service is a free advice and information service for employers who need support on the recruitment, management and retention of employees with disabilities. The EDI service was set up under Strategic Priority 6 of the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for people with disabilities (CES). The EDI service offers:

  • A dedicated helpline giving advice and information to employers about recruiting and employing people with disabilities;
  • A central web-based information resource incorporating guidance and a FAQ section, which is kept up to date;
  • An outreach information service for employers;
  • An information and resource sharing service for participating organisations.

Barriers to work

The EDI service, under 6.9 of the CES, is to increase employers’ awareness of DEASP employers’ supports and other relevant guidance by disseminating information to the business community about these supports.

However, employers are encountering barriers in accessing these supports and report their lack of relevance for the modern workplace:

  • Employers are unaware of the supports and funding available through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP).
  • Employers often miss deadlines for application as a result of a lack of awareness raising by DEASP.
  • Grants are blunt instruments catering only for the needs of full time employees.
  • Many grants only provide assistance to new recruits instead of existing employees.
  • The amount of grant assistance funding provided to employers remains unchanged since 2004. 
  • Grants take a very long time to complete, approve and put in place. The current structure requires an employer to employ someone with a disability, apply for the grant and wait for 6/8 weeks for approval prior to purchasing supports. An employer is expected to provide employment without that person being able to work until their supports are in place and is a major deterrent for employers trying to employ people with disabilities.
  • Grants do not support someone returning to work with reduced productivity levels, only new recruits.

Employer’s experience:

An employer reported wanting to offer a few hours employment to someone with an intellectual disability. However, the offer was refused as the individual was afraid of losing all secondary benefits. The employer also reported that the employee with a disability did not want to be paid minimum wage as he feared his Disability Allowance payment would be adversely affected.

  • Grants operate on a refund basis so employers are taking a great risk when they employ a new recruit who has a disability as it may not work out and they fear litigious reprisal.
  • Support structure creating barriers to employment.
  • There is a lack of clarity around the definition of disability used for the application of these grants.
  • The EmployAbility service does not always meet employers’ needs in a professional and timely manner. There is a disparity between different offices around the country in terms of quality of service provision for employers.

Employer’s experience:

An employer reported wanting to increase the hours and salary rewards for a worker with a disability. The employer and their employee are fearful of the negative impact this increase would have on the employee’s secondary benefits, like the medical card. Together they have agreed to cancel this increase. This impacts negatively on the promotion opportunities for the person with a disability and leaves the employer open to a claim of discrimination under equality legislation.

Barriers to work: grant specific

  • The Disability Awareness Training Support Scheme (DATSS) requires an employer to disclose a person’s disability.

Employer’s experience:

An employer reported that one of their valued employees had acquired epilepsy. Their productivity was badly affected but the employer cannot avail of any financial assistance and is struggling to retain this employee in work at his current salary rate and hours.

  • The Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) does not provide grant assistance for employees returning to work, only to new recruits with a disability working full-time.
  • The Workplace Equipment & Adaptation grant (WEAG) works on a refund basis therefore employers must invest in the equipment prior to receiving the money.
  • The Personal Reader Grant is no longer fit for purpose as it funds the recruitment of an individual for work related reading. This grant should be scrapped as it is technologically outdated.
  • The Job Interview Interpreter Grant (JIIG) only provides funding for an ISL interpreter at interview and induction stages and at no other time during the employment relationship. 
  • The Employee Retention Grant scheme only assists employers to get newly disabled employees back to work but doesn’t support productivity shortfalls. There is also no approved list of providers to assist employers.

Recommendations

  1. Amalgamate all the current supports into one grant that will cover an employee’s needs such as the UK’s Access to Work scheme.
  2. Address the significant delays to approval and implementation of supports. Employers should not have to employ someone with a disability, provide them with a salary and a contract without them being able to take up work until their supports in place.
  3. Minimise the financial risk for employers. The current structure means that an employer is expected to employ and pay a person with a disability who is unable to take up the offered work until their supports are in place.
  4. Remove the onus from the employer to apply for grant support and empower the jobseeker with a disability to seek work with their supports already in place. The current structure means a person with a disability is applying for the same supports each time they change jobs, even if their needs haven’t changed. This proves more expensive for the State in the long term as they are paying for identical supports more than once. While the terms and conditions of the WEAG state that the person with a disability retains ownership of the equipment, it can prove difficult for someone with a disability who is leaving their job to successfully request and receive their assistive technology for their new role, in particular if it has been ‘incorporated into the premises or standard equipment of the employer’. The employee with a disability should be fully equipped for their own employment and career prospects without the need to engage an employer.
  5. Improve access for employers by publicising and promoting the grants nationwide. Treat employers like valued customers and improve the level of service which is currently reported as very poor.
  6. Engage with Enable Ireland and monitor evaluation of the pilot phase of the AT Passport - http://www.enableireland.ie/report#_Toc467830776. This could prove to be a potentially alternate form of funding supports for disability at work.
  7. Create a clear pathway for grant application as it is unclear when and how the application process begins and who instigates it.
  8. Create incentives to engage in socially responsible employment by rewarding such activities for employers.
  9. Review these schemes with the modern workplace in mind and ensure that schemes meet the need for employers.
  10. Simplify the application process, allowing applications through an online system.
  11. If no alternate method of person centred funding can be provided, then separate grant support into workplace supports and access grants enabling an employer to be supported to prepare themselves for the employment of people with disabilities. For example, workplace supports could assist an employer to make reasonable accommodations such as the provision of assistive technology. Access supports could assist an employer to ensure their workplace is accessible prior to advertising their vacancy. Unless the employer is confident that they are ready to accommodate a variety of physical disabilities, they are fearful of the potential litigious reprisal when interviewing someone with a disability.
  12. Clarify the definition or categories of disability supported under the grants and address the challenges for employers in the event of a late disclosure in the employment relationship.
  13. Provide adequate financial support for productivity shortfalls in staff returning to the workplace after acquiring a disability.
  14. Streamline EmployAbility service nationally to better meet employers’ needs.

Employer’s experience:

Following a global recruitment campaign, an employer hired a person with a physical disability. While they successful applied and received funding under the Workplace Equipment & Adaptation grant, they were not told of other supports available. This employee has reduced productivity as a result of their disability but the employer cannot receive any support for the shortfall as they only became aware of the Wage Subsidy Scheme after the first year of the employee’s service had passed.

The employer has no support and is struggling to retain this person in employment.