Myer Boss Should ‘Get On Board” With Disability Employment
7 May 2013 at 12:08 pm
Public comments by Myer CEO Bernie Brookes that a levy to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme is "not good for our customers" demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of Myer’s customer base, says the CEO of the Australian Network on Disability, Suzanne Colbert AM.
One in five Australians has a disability, which means that almost 20 per cent of Myer’s daily customers may have a disability. Customers with disability are just like any other customer with spending power, and are an important part of any customer base. Brookes’ comments will most likely only result in alienating a large proportion of his customer base.
The reaction to Brookes’ comments is not only from shoppers with disability. The 30,000 (and climbing) signatures to Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes’ petition calling on Myer to increase disability employment demonstrates the widespread support from the Australian community for a more inclusive approach towards people with disability.
Australian Network on Disability supports this petition, and formally invites Bernie Brookes to attend the annual Raising the Bar conference at the Sydney Hilton next Wednesday 15th May, an event which provides employers the opportunity to gain insight into best practice and current trends around recruitment, retention and inclusion of people with disability in Australia.
We have abundant evidence that people with disability can be highly skilled, competent and valuable employees. However, employers often bypass this talented pool, either because of unconscious bias in their recruitment processes, or because they do not understand the benefits of recruiting skilled people with disability.
As the authoritative voice on disability as it affects business in Australia, we find that the biggest barrier to disability employment is a lack of “disability confidence” amongst businesses. Brookes’ comments demonstrate this lack of confidence.
Our experience of working with major Australian businesses and departments proves that this lack of confidence can be transformed, particularly when organisations see the business benefits.
The conference enables employers to hear from business leaders who are showing leadership on disability employment, from major retailers, banks, universities, service providers and government departments. Many delegates are attending with the realisation that they need to “get on board” with this vital issue if they are to reap the full benefits of a diverse workforce.
We urge Myer to “get on board” as well.
Genuine engagement between employers and jobseekers with disability will not only facilitate a better Australia, but will lead to a significant boost to Australia’s economy. Our commissioned research (by Deloitte Access Economics) demonstrates an economic boost of $43 billion to Australian GDP, if our nation’s employment of people with disability was brought in line with that of New Zealand.
Australia ranks 21st out of 29 OECD countries in employing people with disability. Australian Network on Disability calls on Myer to play its part in improving this poor track record.