Read the article by Alison Griffiths here
I read your article this morning. I am a Tim Hortons franchise owner and an
advocate for people with disabilities especially in the area of employment.
Your daughter’s story is one I hear all the time.
Having met Jim Flaherty a few times and discussed this issue with him I can
say without question he does get it. He gets the problem of employment and
he gets the overall cost factor.
I am deaf. I have about 20% hearing and have been since birth. I could not
keep a job as a young man but became a successful business owner. Since I
understand first hand the barriers people with disabilities face in order to
get work, I began hiring people with disabilities in my first Tim Hortons in
1995 and to date I have hired 82 PWD’s and currently have 33 out of a
workforce of 210 in my six locations.
Why did I do this? Simply because I saw a business benefit as time went on.
Of course it was the right thing to do but that isn’t reason enough for
business owners to hire PWD’s. My employee turnover went down, my WSIB
claims went down.
I quickly realized that employing PWD’s was good for business, low
absenteeism, higher staff morale, lower turnover (very expensive), higher
productivity and so on. Several of my employees with disabilities have been
employee of the year.
All are in meaningful positions, no charity. That means competitive salaries
as well as having to be replaced if sick. This includes every department
from managers to front line staff, production and logistics.
In 2008 I began a program through my local Rotary club along with the
programs founder Joe Dale. This is known as Rotary at Work.
Joe, who is a past director of Community Living Ontario, developed this
program that shows business owners how they will benefit from hiring PWD’s.
Joe and I travel the province speaking at Rotary clubs, chambers of
commerce, HR groups and to private business owners. This is a peer to peer
program as business owners are hearing from myself as a business owner.
The result since 2009 is huge. 137 people with a disability hired in a
meaningful position with many more at Tim Hortons stores as I was able to
leverage my position.
Now we know that this is the way forward. We cannot use the same old message
that service providers have used in the past. The unemployment rate for
people with disabilities is the same today as it was in 1970 so clearly it
isn’t working but if we can show business owners that there is a benefit to
hiring PWD’s we will see a lot more doors opened.
Here are a few more facts, studies show that employees who have a disability
work 97% safer, have attendance records 86% greater, stay on the job up to 5
times longer, increase morale to the point that non disabled staff stay
longer (huge win for me). Accommodations average $500 but in most cases its
zero and best of all productivity is 20% higher.
Why? Because the job is precious, it took a long time to get that job.
I cannot buy the loyalty my disabled staff have for my company. What
business would not want this? Education is going to be key.
Now let’s look at the financial side of this problem. The unemployment rate
for PWD’s is actually closer to 70% because so many have given up or are
considered unemployable. The unemployment rate during the great depression
was 25% and was considered a national tragedy yet society is comfortable
with a 70%rate for PWD’s. This equates to an ODSP cost to the province of
Ontario of $3.2b. This is growing at 5% per year, totally unsustainable and
this is why the province set up the review commission on ODSP and welfare.
However, even though this number is huge it also means that the maximum
payment for an unemployed person with a disability is about $11,000
annually. Well below poverty and that’s only if they qualify for the maximum.
Taking a person off of benefits and creating a new taxpayer is a win/win.
The 137 people who got employment thru our project saved the province $1m in
Employers don’t hire people with disabilities because they buy into a series
of myths and misperceptions. This is exactly why Quinn isn’t getting a job;
it has nothing to do with her work experience and all to do with attitude.
My best baker is deaf. Her ovens have chimes, bells and warnings. This
hasn’t prevented her from being an awesome addition to our staff. In one day
she figured out how to get around those audible warnings.
PWD’s are more innovative. Quite frankly a person in a wheelchair has to be
innovative just to get through the day, imagine how that mindset helps a pod
or team at a workplace.
Alison, we are going to fix this problem. It will take time, education is
the key. The AODA will now be focusing on employment, this in itself won’t
help as the legislation is toothless (story for another day) but it will
provide much needed awareness. Canada has a looming labour shortage with
many companies noticing this already yet still don’t hire PWD’s. There is a
huge disconnect but we will fix it.
Best of luck to Quinn. Her attitude, not an employers, will win at the end
of the day.