Jobseekers should not talk about their sexual orientation and physical or mental impairments in job interviews or applications, only raising it when they get an offer - if it will impact their ability to do the job.
That’s the advice from an expert in helping disabled Kiwis find work as new research finds 46 per cent of New Zealand workers have experienced barriers to applying for and securing a job linked to those and other factors such as language, ethnicity and gender identity.
The 2023 Randstad Employer Brand Research survey had 4302 responses, including 150 public and private organisations.
Ian Scott, general manager for talent solutions at recruitment agency Randstad New Zealand, said accessing employment and inclusion was a “huge subject right now”.
The challenge for corporate entities was translating well-intentioned strategic plans for creating diverse and inclusive workplaces into action and outcomes.
“By being more intentional during the recruitment and selection process, employers will have access to a more diverse range of skills and experiences.”
Pam Greenlee, who used to run an employment agency for people with disabilities and worked for Randstad, had some advice for jobseekers about divulging information.
“If it has nothing to do with your ability to do the job don’t share it. If it is going to impact your job at some point, even if it’s a potential temporary thing, talk about it at offer – you don’t have to talk about it at application.
“It’s not everything that you are and unfortunately for a lot of people with disability, their disabilities become their identity. Society has actually put that on them …
“If they have the skills and abilities to do a job that is how we lead the conversation … by supporting people.”
Examples of what could be discussed in offer talks included working from home, having young children, an impairment and needing some extra equipment or extra support in some other way.
’A disability employment crisis’
Employment support service Workbridge chief executive Jonathan Mosen said the survey statistics were dire.
“There is a disability employment crisis. The unemployment rate of disabled people is over double that of the nondisabled … the number of young disabled people not in employment, education or training has increased recently and has been stubbornly over 40 per cent for years.”
About 25 per cent of New Zealanders are disabled. More employers were becoming aware disability should be a part of diversity, equity and inclusion programmes, but it was a broad term and some were not sure where to start.
“The biggest barrier disabled people face is low expectations.”
Some employers were still concerned disabled people are a health and safety risk or are not as productive as nondisabled people, despite studies suggesting they may be more productive.
“I am an optimist and believe more and more employers are willing to give disabled people a fair go.”
How employers can address workplace bias
Love HR founder Stephanie Love said “privilege is invisible to those who have it”.
To mitigate conscious and unconscious bias, employers should provide education and training “to improve the employee experience for minority groups, women, the Rainbow community, and those who are neurodiverse”.
People want to feel included and that they belong and younger generations entering the workforce were challenging employers on traditional ways of working.
Love said employers could embrace the changing times by creating a psychologically safe environment and prioritising wellbeing.
“Once that’s achieved, asking what their people want, listening to what they say and following through.”
Brittany Teei, founder of digital education, mentoring and recruitment company 3 Bags Full, said Māori and Pasifika candidates – and potential employers – were still missing out on opportunities because of roadblocks to diversity in organisations.
Overcoming this could be a “game-changing conversation” but one Teei’s team had heard a lot.
“It’s the ‘how’ organisations are looking to now because usually, the decision-makers within organisations aren’t actually representative of the community.”
People may want to make a change but did not know how.
“Perhaps start with empowering their frontline recruiters with more cultural knowledge to make intentional hiring decisions from diverse candidate pools. Actions speak louder than words.”
Barriers for migrant employees
Multicultural Tauranga president Premila D’Mello said generally speaking it was harder for migrants to get jobs unless they had high qualifications. Language was also a barrier.
“If you’re trying to look for a job that does not have a shortage or there is plenty of Kiwis who qualify then it is challenging for migrants to get positions.”
Many who could not secure work started their own businesses.
She knew of migrant teachers who could not land full-time jobs despite working in the schools.
“There is a long way to get there and we are not there yet.”
Rotorua Multicultural Council president Margriet Theron agreed migrants faced barriers.
“It is absolutely human that when you are appointing somebody, you are looking for somebody who looks like you and who speaks like you because it’s comfortable.
“If you appoint somebody who looks different and speaks in a different way, but has these international connections … it’s so much richer, you enrich your workforce by having these people.”
Pride activist and YouBeYou Aotearoa founder Gordy Lockhart said people were far better “celebrating our differences rather than identifying our challenges”.
He said the global research was replacing the idea of diversity with social identity, “a concept that is made up of all of what makes up an individual”.
“I don’t want to be thought of as gay Gordon – that is part of who I am but it’s not all of who I am.”
Lockhart said employment environments should encourage somebody’s social identity to come to the fore because people did not bring half of themselves to work.
Carmen Hall is a news director for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post, covering business and general news. She has been a Voyager Media Awards winner and a journalist for 25 years.