BMO Financial Group

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BMO Financial Group

October 11, 2012 06:00 ET

BMO Study: Canadians Believe People with Disabilities Are Victims of Hiring Bias

Almost half of Canadians believe a candidate is more likely to be hired if they can hide their disability from a potential employer

- The majority, 62 per cent, believe a person with a non-visible disability is more likely to be hired and promoted than a person with a visible disability.

- Canadians identify perceptions and myths of employers as the top reason people with disabilities are under-represented in the workforce

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 11, 2012) - A BMO study, released today, suggests there is still too much stigma about discussing disability in the workplace - on the part of employers, job candidates and employees - which is getting in the way of businesses hiring more people with disabilities.

According to BMO's survey, 48 per cent of Canadians believe a person is more likely to be hired or promoted if they hide their disability. That perception is even higher - 55 per cent - among survey respondents who said they have a disability.

Sonya Kunkel, Managing Director of Diversity and Inclusion at BMO Financial Group, said: "Despite dismantling many barriers to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce, certain, perhaps hidden, forces are still at play. We need to do more to uncover and address them. This is the only way to reduce a persistently high employment gap. Of the approximately 16 per cent of Canadians with a disability, 30 per cent are able and want to work. However, they are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as people who do not have a disability.

"Longstanding myths and misperceptions continue to get in the way of businesses hiring more employees from this relatively large and untapped talent pool," said Ms. Kunkel.

One misperception is the cost of accommodations. Studies show 20 per cent of employees with a disability require no accommodations at all, while the average cost for those who do is $500 - an amount that is affordable for most businesses, large and small. Meanwhile, in BMO's study, 67 per cent of survey respondents said they had no idea how much accommodations cost; the mean guess was $10,000 - a significant overestimation.

Many hiring managers also overestimate the cost of accommodations and assume the candidate would not be able to perform the job.

"This, too, is a misconception. There is a strong business case for including more people with disabilities in your workforce. Numerous studies and our own experience show that people with disabilities perform as well or better than their colleagues and have similar or better retention rates," said Ms. Kunkel.

This view is supported by a recent poll of small business owners. Last week, BMO issued the findings of a separate study which found 77 per cent of small business owners who have hired people with a disability said these employees either met (62 per cent) or exceeded (15 per cent) their expectations.

"With findings like these, there is an onus on all individuals in any given workplace - business owners, leaders, managers and employees - to check their biases at the door and pave the way for more inclusive and accessible workplaces. Businesses can start by reviewing and reworking recruitment practices, partnering with organizations that connect people with disabilities to job opportunities, and educating and training managers to feel confident discussing what their employees with visible or non-visible disabilities may need to enable their success," said Ms. Kunkel.

"The conversation works both ways. Employees with disabilities can help their employers help them by being open about their disability," she said.

"The most important step here is opening the dialogue. We've got to refocus the conversation from disability to ability and celebrate the unique perspectives employees with disabilities bring to a business," said Ms. Kunkel.

Regional breakdowns of the survey results are available upon request.

The survey was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights between August 24-30, 2012, using a sample of 1000 Canadians 18 years of age and older. 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 July 31, 2012, 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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