A proposed plan to encourage people with disabilities into meaningful employment could be life-changing for some, say Bay of Plenty advocates.
Giving people with disabilities and long-term health conditions equal opportunity to access good work is the aim of the Government's proposed Disability Employment Action Plan that is now open for consultation.
It also planned to help employers attract and retain workers who have disabilities and health conditions.
The proposed plan has been welcomed by St Chad's Charitable Trust general manager Nicky Mayne who said it would be "life-changing" for them.
Mayne said employment for people with disabilities meant giving them more than just an income.
"It also brings confidence, self-esteem and helps them to come into the community. It opens the doors to a whole lot of other things."
She said while New Zealand led in a lot of areas, it was behind in supporting those with disabilities.
"The employment rates for people with disabilities in New Zealand are really, really bad."
In June, a Government survey found the New Zealand employment rate was 23.4 per cent for disabled people, compared to 69.9 per cent for non-disabled people.
It found 74 per cent of working-age disabled people who were not in paid employment said they would like to work if a job was available.
Mayne said many people wouldn't employ someone with a disability due to the belief they would be a health-and-safety risk but that was not the case.
"The research actually shows that if you employ someone with a disability your health and safety risk goes down," she said.
"Your staff retention, your staff culture, your staff morale all improve ... [and] if you've got people with disabilities working in your workplace, you're way more likely to be more profitable."
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The main barrier to employing people with disabilities was mindset, Mayne said.
"Most people with a disability don't need adaptations in the organisation ... Employers think there must be costs associated," she said.
"If you employ someone with a disability they tend to stay in your employment so you don't have the turnover costs."
Disability Issues Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the Government wanted to break down the barriers to employment for disabled New Zealanders and better support them into work.
"This Government wants every New Zealander who is able, to be earning, learning, caring or volunteering," she said.
"This means having the opportunity to participate in an inclusive labour market and improve their wellbeing, prosperity and dignity through work.
Sepuloni said employers were also missing out on the skills and contributions of a more diverse workforce, potentially due to a lack of understanding.
Tauranga Disability Advisory Group co-chairman Paul Curry said more needed to be done to encourage employers to hire people with disabilities.
"If we always do what we've always done, we'll always get what we've always got," he said.
"What needs to happen is there needs to be a really strong encouragement of employers to be able to take on people with disabilities ... To be able to see the value of people with disabilities, rather than through a lens of low expectations."
Curry said myths that people with disabilities will take more sick leave or have difficulty fitting in with existing staff were untrue.
"People with disabilities are more grateful about getting a job, and make greater employees," he said.
Consultation on the plan closes on February 21 next year. For information and to provide feedback go to the Ministry of Social Development website.