A new regulation being pushed by the Department of Labor could require companies with government contracts worth over $10,000 to give least seven percent of its jobs to people with disabilities. Even companies with strong disability programs are wary of the new rule, as well as the cost associated with compliance.
There is no doubting the benefits of having a diverse workforce, and in a period where people are settling for jobs they would have normally passed by, loyal employees are hard to find in production environments. Many companies have found that employees with a disability are more reliable than those without. In fact, the American Society of Safety Engineers found that workers with disabilities have a turnover rate 48 percent lower than other employees. They also have 67 percent lower medical costs and 73 percent less time-off expenses.
So why are companies that already have disability programs in place worried about this new regulation? Cost is a big factor.
Implementing a disability program is not something that can be successfully accomplished overnight, and it comes with a cost. A study by the Associated General Contractors of America shows that the new quota would cost construction firms over $14,000 per year, per project site. The Department of Labor thinks that the cost per site would be only $473.
It is estimated that more than 200,000 companies would be affected by the regulation, and the cost would be roughly $5.6 billion to accommodate the disabled workers in the first year, and $2.6 in each continuing year.
Companies like Walgreens, which began its disability outreach program in 2002, has issues with the regulation, despite the fact that 10 percent of their employee base is workers with disabilities. The new regulations could require companies to work with specific state agencies.
“We want to partner with the agencies we prefer,” Deb Russell, a manager of diversity and inclusion explains, “rather than be told who to do business with.”
The new regulation will create additional requirements for human resource departments, including extensive reporting and data collecting about evaluations and hiring of non-disabled versus disabled employees.
There is no set timetable for the new amendment to go into effect, although Department of Labor spokespeople say it is being worked on.
Supporters of the amendment feel that the benefits employers will receive will greatly outweigh the burden and expense.
In addition, there is already a website set up called Think Beyond the Label that offers assistance to those with disabilities looking for employment as well as resources for those employers looking to diversify their workforce. They even have an amusing campaign to shift some attitudes with a little humor about what might be considered a “disability.”
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