Why does Drakes in Hallett Cove recruit people living with disability?
[narration] Hi, this is Carey Scheer and you're listening to the Purple Orange Podcast.
What do you think might motivate employers to hire people living with disability? It's pretty recognised that diversity strengthens creativity. It's also good for the employer's reputation. Research shows people think favourably about businesses that hire people living with disability. There are even some programs with incentives where they might subsidise an employee's wage for a period of time to encourage more employers to give people living with disability a go. But, when I went to check out one workplace that regularly hires people living with disability, Drakes Supermarket in Hallett Cove, I discovered the manager had another motivation. It's very simple, totally practical- something that makes his life easier. But before you hear from the manager, I want you to hear from a couple employees. First, Matthew Maidment, one of their more recent recruits.
[Carey] So tell me what you do here?
[Mathew M] Um, I bring trolleys out from the back when the deliveries come in and stock the shelves.
[narration] He told me landing this job was a huge breakthrough for him.
[Mathew M] I've been struggling to find a job for close to eight years now. I also have a few mental disabilities. But yeah, it makes things hard. And I couldn't get any call backs. No one contacted me after I dropped off a resume and it hurts. It hurt a lot.
[Mathew M speaking to customer] Sorry, do you need some help?
[customer] Yeah, where abouts are the cat biscuits?
[Mathew M speaking to customer] They are just down here.
[customer] Awesome. Thanks a lot.
[Mathew M speaking to customer] No worries.
[narration] The busy supermarket aisle didn't feel like the right place to have this conversation. So we ducked out to the employee breakout room.
[Carey] What was your reaction when you found out you got this job?
[Mathew M] A large part of it was disbelief, like is this actually happening? And then came the relief. I actually have a job. This is actually happening.
[narration] The Human Rights Commission lists a range of reasons that the unemployment rate of people living with disability may be so high. But right at the top of that list is discriminatory attitudes and behaviours during recruitment. And this certainly seemed to ring true for Matthew's experience.
[Mathew M] Just this morning, I was talking to my partner. I said that about this time last year, I had a breakdown cause I thought I'd never get a job. So yeah, it takes, it takes a huge toll. When people like us with disabilities are pushed back because of them, it feels like they're pushing us back because they don't feel like we can take on the job when we probably can. But they're just not giving us the chance. And it hurts, we try not to let it show, but it hurts.
Like, just because we have a disability doesn't make us unable to work. Hell, people with disabilities are more likely to be hard workers. I may have some shortcomings with my mental disabilities. But God damn, I'll work hard. So yeah, definitely give us a chance, let us prove that we can do this.
[narration] I also spoke with one other employee living with disability. His name was also Matthew, and he was a recent recruit as well. Matthew Jeffries told me that this was his first ever job. And that he'd been struggling to find work for over four years. But he felt that that was more due to the fact that the whole application and interview process favours extroverts.
Just a note on the recording, the employee breakout room was occupied. So we had to go outside. So you do hear some traffic in the background.
[Matthew J] I was just applying online through the different websites and all that. And I'm not a confident speaker so ringing people up and going into stores trying to hand in my resume and all that sort of stuff. I do struggle with that. So I don't think it was based on my disability at all. I think it was just the way I was going about it or approaching job looking.
[Carey] And how did you feel when they called you and told you, you had the job?
[Matthew J] Oh I was very happy. Nervous as well, because it's my first job. But I just felt like they were there to support me. I can go up and ask any questions no matter how silly they are. They've made me feel wanted. So I feel like this is definitely the place for me.
[Carey] So you hope to stay here for a while?
[Matthew J] Oh, yeah, definitely. So I'm not willing to do anything that will stuff up my opportunity that Drakes have given me.
[Narration] So it was really clear that after the challenging time that both of the Matthews had finding work, this job meant a lot to them, and they were not taking it for granted.
Okay, so now I want you to hear from the manager Karl Pierce. Karl was really happy to talk to me, but finding the time was another story, we'd go to start, and then someone would knock on his door or he'd get paged-
[Karl paged over speaker]
[Carey] That’s okay.
[Karl answers phone]
[Karl] Hello Karl speaking.
I'm going to have a look at it...
[Karl's phone conversation fades out]
[narration] I got the feeling running a grocery store is a really busy job.
[Karl] Oh it is like a madhouse.
[narration] But eventually, he managed to squeeze out a few minutes. And he told me that he currently has seven employees living with disability, and that some of his longest employees live with disability.
[Karl] We've got some people that have been here 12 to 15 years. Everyone I've ever taken on with a disability, I've had no issues.
[narration] He told me that it's about matching people to the right job.
[Karl] Everybody's got some sort of disability. There's always going to be someone who can't do something, but you find them what they're good at in that particular role and they perform in that role. No issues.
I've got one whose got learning disability. She's done date checks now for, I know it's 10 years, but she's responsible for all the dates because obviously it's very important with fresh, you know, that obviously you rotate, etc, etc. And she finds stuff where I can give a person without disabilities, and I'm not getting the same results as what I get when she's down there.
[Carey] Are you actively seeking out people with disability?
[Karl] I did this time. This is a crucial role for me and I just had to have the right people. In a retail industry, you need people to turn up and want to come to work. And that's it. I know, I know it's going to sound silly, but there’s a lot of people who haven't got disabilities who just do not want to work. You know, it's one minute they're, 'Yes, I can come to work. No, okay. I don't want to.' I just want people who want to work. Like the two Matts out there. I think one of them has never had a job and the other one hasn’t had a job for eight years. Now, the day I interviewed them, they were overwhelmed, you know, that I was willing to give them a chance, you know. And I've had no issues. You know, I'm just grateful they come to me.
[narration] And so there you have it. Karl's main motivation for hiring people living with disability is that they've made great employees. Because over the years, he's found that the people he's hired who live with disability, tend to be happy to come to work, to work hard, to be just as productive as everyone else, and to stay with the company longer.
I don't think most employers mean to discriminate. I think people just get busy and when they go to hire somebody, they tend to go with what they perceive to be the safe, easy route. But what struck me is that for Karl, hiring people living with disability is his safe and easy route. So don't overlook a great employee based on misconceptions of disability.
This Purple Orange Podcast episode was funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency through a Purple Orange initiative called Road to Employment. For more information about Road to Employment, email Kellie Howe, firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 08 8373 8388.