M-430 – Strengthening Employment for Canadians with Disabilities - Questions and Answers

What is the motivation behind this Motion?

Too many Canadians with disabilities who are capable of working are not represented in the labour force.  While their situation has improved over time, their employment rate (51%) remains low compared to other Canadians (75%). Economic growth and prosperity requires greater participation of Canadians with disabilities in the job market.

At the same time, it is well known that gainful employment leads to social and economic inclusion and an overall higher quality of life for Canadians with disabilities, and additional measures are needed to improve the current situation.

The recent Report of the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities has drawn unprecedented attention to these issues. The report offers an exciting new perspective on opportunities that exist in the private sector to bring about a positive change.

The Report makes it clear that Canadian employees with disabilities often bring with them a very unique and beneficial set of skills, work-ethic, commitment and drive that can help businesses grow and prosper. It delivers a clear and compelling message in this regard and it is important that this message is heard and perpetuated in Government and in Canada’s business community.

A comprehensive Private Member’s Motion offered MP McColeman an opportunity to advocate for sweeping measures that advance the Panel’s findings and encourage action on the national stage.

What is the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and what led to its recent ground-breaking report?

Canada is facing skills and labour shortages in many sectors, and the Government has demonstrated recognition that finding ways to get all Canadians working is key to meeting this challenge.

That is why the Conservative Government appointed a Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities in July 2012 to consult with private-sector employers, organizations and individuals on the labour market participation of people with disabilities.

Panel members were the chair, Mr. Kenneth J. Fredeen, General Counsel of Deloitte & Touche LLP; Ms. Kathy Martin, Senior Vice-president, Human Resources, with Loblaw Companies Limited; Mr. Mark Wafer, owner of Megleen Incorporated, which operates six Tim Hortons’ franchises inToronto;  andDr. Gary Birch, the Executive Director of the Neil Squire Society.

The Panel submitted its report to Ministers Finley and Flaherty on December 3, 2012, the International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

How can enhanced employment levels for persons with disabilities contribute to Canada’s long-term economic prosperity?

The severity of impending labour shortages due to Canada’s population is becoming increasingly clear, with labour shortages as high as one million people predicted in the next decade alone.

Meanwhile, we know that there are about 800,000 working-aged Canadians who are not working but whose disability does not prevent them from doing so. Of this group, 340,000 people have post-secondary education. This is a significant untapped pool of talent capable of major contributions to the Canadian economy and Canadian society.

Why is there an emphasis on private sector leadership?

The Panel report identified private sector leadership as an enormously important factor if Canada is to see significantly more Canadians with disabilities gaining employment. This sentiment is repeated by various disability organizations and experts.

  • “There is a need to build greater awareness and educate those involved in hiring to eradicate myths and stereotypes and create a culture of workplace opportunity for people with disabilities. There are several organizations in the business community right now trying to make this happen …. But more organizations need to commit to making a difference for people with disabilities.” – Panel Report on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities
  • “To increase employment among people with disabilities and access the related benefits, tone from the top and the actions of leaders are imperative” – The Road to Inclusion; Integrating people with disabilities into the workplace. Summary of Deloitte’s Dialogue on Diversity Roundtables.
  • “It’s time for employers to step up their commitment to hiring and accommodating persons with disabilities” – Tony Dolan, National Chairperson, Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)
  • [Private organizations can] ensure that senior leadership, as well as middle-management and recruiters understand the business case for diversity – and understand why it is a priority. – The Road to Inclusion; Integrating people with disabilities into the workplace. Summary of Deloitte’s Dialogue on Diversity Roundtables.

Private sector leadership is critical in order to break down existing barriers to employment for people with disabilities and build inclusive workplaces.

Why should Canadian employers examine the findings of Re-Thinking disAbility and take action on this issue?

The Panel found that hiring people with disabilities is not only valuable because it is the right thing to do. In fact, the report offers compelling evidence that doing the right thing makes good business sense in terms of attracting and retaining talent and market impact. For instance;

  • A major 2005 U.S. survey of customer perceptions towards companies hiring people with disabilities found that 92% of Americans viewed these companies more favourably; 87% said they would give their business to companies that hire people with disabilities.
  • A DuPont study shows that 90% of people with disabilities do as well or better at their jobs than non-disabled co-workers. It found that turnover, absenteeism and tardiness drop appreciably in organizations with disabled workers.
  • A widely accepted study conducted by the U.S. Job Accomodation Network (JAN) found that providing workplace accommodation typically comes at a low cost, with 57% of participants reporting spending nothing at all.
  • Businesses reported major benefits from reduced turnover when employing people with disabilities. For instance, the Marriott hotel chain has reported a 6% turnover rate amongst employees with disabilities versus 52% overall.
  • Canadian Rich Donovan, founder of Fifth Quadrant Analytics has found that “companies that perform well in disability are highly responsive to their customers, and thus outperform peers in revenue growth.”

The number of Canadian businesses reporting challenges in recruiting and retaining talent is increasing and hiring people with disabilities will allow them to tap into a largely untapped workforce to help them grow and thrive.

Why are changes being encouraged for Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities (LMAPD’s)?

Through LMAPD’s, the Government of Canada transfers over $218 million annually to provinces to support programs and services designed to improve the employment situation for persons with disabilities.  In developing and implementing these agreements, the Government continues to recognize the importance of enhancing the employability of persons with disabilities.

However, disability organizations have long sought strengthened performance indicators and reporting of the funding transferred to Provinces and Territories under LMAPD’s. By better demonstrating the goals and results of funding, the Government can ensure that lessons are learned and new strategies are incorporated.

That is why this Motion calls on the Government to pursue greater accountability and coordination of its labour market funding for persons with disabilities, ensuring that funding is focused on suitable performance indicators with strong demonstrable results.

In line with the Report of the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, all levels of Government can do a better job of engaging employers with training activities. That is why McColeman is also calling on the Government to work with the Provinces and Territories to support employers facing skills shortages by better ensuring that skills training is demand driven.

Why should the Government identify existing innovative approaches to increasing the employment of persons with disabilities happening across Canada, and ensure that related programs can replicate those approaches?

Across Canada, exciting new methods and innovative initiatives are enhancing the effectiveness of programs to improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities.

The Panel report highlights that there are excellent pockets of innovation in communities throughout the country that are supporting Canadians with disabilities and responding to an increased demand for reliable committed employees. It also advised that effective community partnerships are keys to success in increasing employment among people with disabilities.

The best new approaches often come from community-based organizations that are best placed to identify the needs of their own communities and design interventions that address those needs.

Many community-based organizations have formed strong bonds and durable social capital with business and institutional leaders. The Government’s investment can strengthen these relationships and local resources can be leveraged more fully to enable more people with disabilities to access to services and job opportunities.

That is why, rather than seeking big, new one-size-fits-all programs, this Motion emphasizes that programs must be increasingly flexible and adaptive and calls for an ongoing emphasis on finding replicable approaches that have proven successful.

Why is there a specific emphasis on young Canadians with disabilities contained in this Motion?

Disability organizations often emphasize the importance of encouraging labour market participation amongst people with disabilities while they are young, because as time passes, the likelihood that they will enter the labour force sharply declines. Supporting employment specifically amongst youth with disabilities can lead to enormous payoffs for Canada’s future.

Echoing that message, the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities noted that: “a major difference between youth with and without disabilities is a lack of work experience. Far fewer students with disabilities have had summer or part-time jobs, co-ops, mentoring or apprenticeships – all critical “leads” to permanent employment.

That is why this motion advocates for people with disabilities to be made a priority under the government’s Youth Employment Strategy (YES), to provide more work experience to these youth and the economic opportunities that this experience brings.  Presently, YES provides over $300 million annually to assist youth in enhancing their employability skills while increasing the number of skilled young Canadians in the workforce.