The "myth-busters" were in Whanganui yesterday, spreading the message about the worth of businesses employing people with a health condition or disability.

The Government-backed programme is called EmployAbility and managed by Work and Income offices around the country. Yesterday there were about 50 people at a business breakfast at the Grand Hotel getting an outline of the programme.

Gloria Campbell, the department's regional commissioner, said the initiative was about taking away those barriers and perceptions.

Ms Campbell said there were a vast number of people with untapped talent keen to find steady employment.


"Evidence tells us that those who fall into this category are very reliable so there are a number of myths we have to break about these people."

She said finding work also moved these people off some sort of government support which was another positive.

"I have a number of people with disabilities or health conditions on my own staff and I find they play a valuable role for us."

Ms Campbell said disabled people make up 24 per cent of the working age population but only 45 per cent of them are employed compared with 72 per cent of New Zealander generally.

"Disabled people have fewer health and safety concerns because they've developed their own strategies to lessen any risk to themselves. They take less sick days, stay in the job longer and are dedicated to their job."

And she said if some of these people need special equipment to work then the Government programme will pay the employer to take care of that.

Spreading the word were three guest speakers who have first-hand experience in the field, They included Robert Martin who serves on the United Nation's committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Pacific Helmets manufacturing manager Glenn Spink and Andy Lynn, general manager of Wanganui Enterprises.

Mr Spink said his company employs 65 on the factory floor and had been a long-time employer of several people with disabilities and in the last year alone had taken on about a dozen people who fell into that category.

He admitted to having initial reservations but has "absolutely no regrets".

"We have a big problem with attendance with these guys, not because they're absent but because they just won't stop coming to work. We have to push them to take leave and they're always at work 15 minutes at least before start time ready to go. They're on time for tea breaks and always the first back to work after."

Mr Spink said it created a good work culture and other workers' attitudes softened when they see what these people are capable of doing.

"And some ideas put forward in the workplace by some of these disabled staffers has made for greater productivity in our plant," he said.

"Giving them a job gives them a chance they rightfully deserve."

There was a bonus for those attending the event too. Every employer was given an $8000 Flexi-wage subsidy they can use by taking on someone with a disability in their workplace.