BMO Financial Group

BMO Financial Group

March 20, 2013 16:10 ET

80 per cent of Canadians Feel Employers Should Do More to Help Workers with Disabilities Enter the Labour Force: BMO Study

Canadians believe employers could save taxpayers money by hiring persons with disabilities

- Slightly more than half of workers with disabilities who are able to work have jobs

- More than half of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses have never hired a person with a disability

- 50 per cent of Canadians believe employers don't have the skills required to understand and accommodate the needs of their employees with disabilities

- Meaningful change will come when private sector bias and misperceptions are addressed

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 20, 2013) - An overwhelming number of Canadians (80 per cent) believe government and private sector employers should do more to help workers with disabilities enter the labour force, according to BMO's recent "Count Me In" survey, which measured Canadians' attitudes about including people with disabilities in the workforce.

Canadians also believe that doing so would save taxpayers money rather than cost them (45 per cent vs. 20 per cent).

"Canadians get it," said Sonya Kunkel, Managing Director of Diversity and Inclusion at BMO Financial Group. "Putting people to work is more constructive, more productive and less costly, socially and fiscally, than writing welfare cheques. We need to constantly repeat and reinforce the benefits persons with disabilities bring to the workforce and continue to encourage government and businesses to address head on the barriers to fuller employment among this cohort. This is particularly relevant today when small business owners tell us the number-one challenge to future growth is finding and retaining talent."

According to the BMO survey, 77 per cent of businesses that have hired people with disabilities said these employees either met (62 per cent) or exceeded (15 per cent) their expectations. "This certainly parallels our experience at BMO," said Ms. Kunkel. "We've found employees with disabilities perform as well or better than their peers. There really is no reason for so many people with disabilities to be consistently excluded from the workforce."

Despite this, only slightly more than half of persons with disabilities who are able to work have jobs.

"The biggest barrier to hiring people with disabilities is a hiring bias among business owners based on misinformation, misperception, and a lack of knowledge about how to hire, how to manage and how to accommodate people with disabilities," said Ms. Kunkel.

"At BMO, managers are trained to be inclusive leaders. Their training includes how to communicate openly and directly, and how to make appropriate accommodations so employees can perform to their full potential," she said.

There are also misperceptions about the cost of accommodations. Most respondents to the "Count Me In" survey had no idea what the average cost of an accommodation would be. Those who ventured a guess vastly overestimated the cost at $10,000. In fact, 20 per cent of employees with a disability require no accommodations at all, while the average cost for individuals who do is only $500 - an affordable amount for most businesses.

Accommodations can include adjustable desks or chairs, assistive devices and software, flexible work hours, telecommuting or simply understanding the different ways in which team members learn new information or skills.

The survey was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights between August 24-30, 2012, using a sample of 1000 Canadians 18 and over. Results carry a margin of error of ±3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $542 billion as at January 31, 2013, and more than 46,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.

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