How do we promote Inclusive Employment?
Tal Neuberger, VP supported Employment
Our supported employment services are provided as an inherent part of the vocational rehabilitation training process. That is to say, the supported employment services are not detached from the earlier stages of the vocational rehabilitation process. From day one, the service user meets the supported employment specialist, and relevant areas of occupations are explored together. Throughout the process, there is an emphasis on improving skills required for the desired job in the free market. The continual contact between the supported employment specialist and the managers of the different vocational rehabilitation training units, improves the understanding of the desires, needs, strengths and difficulties of each service user.
When a service user expresses a wish to work in the free market, the supported employment specialist, who already knows him/her, accompanies the job-hunting process, and continues to support the service user while in the free market position. In case that a consumer leaves or is fired from her/his job, s/he has the option of returning to the training unit and to receive intensive support by the same staff, until s/he feels ready to reapply for a job in the free market.
In the last three years alone, our unique working model led to successful, long-term, free market work inclusion of more than 600 people with psychiatric disabilities. They all are earning minimum wage or more, in various occupational settings, such as, customer service, sales, education, manufacturing, retailing and much more.
How do we promote Inclusive Employment?
According to the professional literature, inclusive employment refers to all activities that enable an individual to gain access to decent remunerated work. As mentioned in the previous section, the activities undertaken and mechanisms used by Shekulo Tov inclusive employment aim to promote employment – decent remunerated work in the free market – for people with psychiatric disabilities. In this section we will focus on our efforts to provide employers the most relevant information, practical tools and support that may assist them in the hiring process, while highlighting the “business case of disabilities” (i.e. businesses can boost their competitive edge by making people with disabilities an integral part of their workforce and their customer base). We believe that providing supported employment to employers, in parallel to the training and supported employers services we provide to our service users , is a key aspect in developing an inclusive employment culture in the free labor market. Here are the main services that we provide to employers as part of our efforts to promote inclusive employment:
- Information and practical tools. In order to increase employers’ knowledge and confidence in the hiring process, we prepared a comprehensive kit that describes best practices for recruiting candidates with psychiatric disabilities (e.g., how to conduct targeted outreach, ensure that the hiring process is accessible, and ask effective questions during an interview); Respecting, retaining and promoting employees with psychiatric disabilities (e.g., practical suggestions for developing successful orientation and on-boarding, career development, and mentoring programs; and providing reasonable accommodations (e.g., resources on common reasonable accommodation and accessibility requests, suggestions for developing reasonable accommodation procedures and providing details about financial support they can receive for the government in the accommodation process). We are also presenting the Legal Framework (i.e. relevant Israeli legislation and regulations) that relates to people with disabilities in general and psychiatric disabilities in particular. In addition to this toolkit, we deliver this information and practical tools in person and in employers fair that we conduct from time to time. The employers’ fairs, that usually include dozens of employers and consumers, also provide an opportunity for the employers to get to know one another and to enhance business network. These fairs also facilitate informal interactions between candidates with psychiatric disabilities and employers, which often lead to job proposals and a long term inclusive employment.
- Consultation and Support. Our supported employment specialists facilitate the employment process and provide professional advice and support to employers via telephone, email or face-to-face meetings. The consultation and support is based on the specific needs of each employer and their employees.
In our experience, employers are mostly concerned about:
- job performance or qualifications of employees with psychiatric disabilities
- violence or problematic behaviors in the workplace
- cost of providing reasonable accommodations
- handling the needs of a worker with a psychiatric disability on the job
- disciplining or firing a worker with a psychiatric disability for poor performance while avoiding potential lawsuits
- correctly assessing whether the person can do the job
- extra time that supervisors or co-workers will need to spend to assist employees with psychiatric disabilities.
Our supported employment specialists are trying to address these and other common concerns by providing reliable knowledge that will increase employers’ confidence and decrease stereotypes and prejudice against employees with psychiatric disabilities. The supported employment specialists are also trying to help employers ensuring that the recruitment process is accessible; provide resources on appropriate accommodations for employees with psychiatric disabilities in different work settings; and assisting employers to receive the financial supports available via the Ministry of Trade and Industry. In addition to these general issues, the supported employment specialists deal with a variety of troubleshooting that occurs during the employment process and try to provide solutions that will meet the needs of the employee and the employers.
- Social Branding. The professional literature indicates that hiring employees with disabilities can increase a company’s brand image. Since promoting company’s brand is one of the motivations of some businesses to hire people with psychiatric disabilities, we are using this motivation when contacting new employers that do not have clear policy that prioritize hiring people with disabilities. In some case, we are also happy to help employers to consolidate employment and marketing strategies in terms of promoting employment of people with disabilities in general and psychiatric disabilities in particular.
- Rewards. While the most significant incentive of employers that hire people with disabilities is a successful employment process, we thought that it would be a good idea to award employers that successfully promote inclusive employment to our consumers. Each year, in a special event that includes all our consumers, we award several employers that showed a significant progress in the past year in terms of promoting accessible and accommodated inclusive employment of employee with psychiatric disabilities in their businesses.