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Workplace Initiative Weekly News Roundup: January 13, 2020

By Workplace Initiative
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Here are some highlights from this week’s news about disability inclusion (DI) in the workforce—and how you can use this information to make your company the best it can be.

What’s reported: Senator Elizabeth Warren has a plan to protect the rights of people with disabilities across America, Common Dreams reports. “People with disabilities are still fighting for economic security, equal opportunity, and inclusion—and they’re not fighting alone,” the Democratic presidential candidate writes on her campaign website

Warren proposes to support Americans with disabilities in the workplace by:

  • Ending “government-sanctioned pay discrimination” for people with disabilities. This includes increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour for all Americans.
  • Making federal employment a pathway to workforce inclusion for people with disabilities. 
  • Pushing to pass the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act to transition people with disabilities to more competitive jobs.

Common Dreams also reports that Warren’s plan has gotten support from disability rights advocates. “It has exactly the level of detail, respect, and thoughtfulness you’d expect,” tweeted Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

What you can do: Ensure that people with disabilities are treated and compensated fairly. Start by reviewing your company’s compensation policy to make sure it’s equitable for all employees. And create an employee resource group (ERG). The voluntary, employee-led group is a forum where members can feel more comfortable disclosing disabilities and seeking support.

What’s reported: A Forbes article written by Zillow Group social-impact executive Rebekah Bastian makes predictions for corporate diversity work in 2020. Employee mental health is highlighted as an important topic.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, each year 19 percent of U.S. adults experience mental illness—that’s almost 1 in 5. The article cites that 72 percent of employers list employee stress as the top issue negatively impacting workplace productivity. 

Because of this, more companies are making employee mental health a priority. A 2019 survey by Willis Towers Watson shows that 57 percent of employers plan to increase their mental health focus in the new decade, the Forbes article reports.

What you can do: Let employees know that their mental health matters by including mental health coverage as part of your health care plan. And even a small business can set up an employee assistance program (EAP) to help people manage mental health at work (and in their personal lives). 

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What’s reported: The CEOs of Microsoft, CVS Health, Accenture, and other major companies are urging other Fortune 1000 companies to participate in the Disability Equality Index. The joint initiative of Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a benchmarking tool that scores businesses on their disability inclusion practices. It also offers opportunities for improvement.

“We have experienced firsthand, through our companies, the potential for innovation, sustainability, and profit of disability inclusion,” the corporate leaders write in a letter to other company CEOs, as published by Globe Newswire

The CEOs refer to a 2018 Accenture study that companies that adopt best practices for hiring and supporting people with disabilities “gain [on average] as much as 28 percent higher revenue, double the net income, and 30 percent higher economic profit margins than their peers.”

What you can do: Register for the 2020 Disability Equality Index to get input on your company’s disability inclusion efforts and what you can do better. (Read the 2019 Disability Inclusion Index.) And learn how to develop strategies to build a more inclusive workplace, including implementing company-wide training.

What’s reported: When Emma Gardner had a child with a disability, that shifted her perspective about what diversity meant.

“It wasn’t until I became a mother to my daughter Dotty that I began to consider disability as part of diversity,” the ad-agency executive writes in Transform magazine. “I began to draw from my personal experience to look for ways to highlight and change things in the only place I knew how: at work.”

Gardner suggests ways to provide opportunities for people with disabilities in the workplace, such as:

  • Use more inclusive job descriptions and recruitment practices.
  • Make sure your company’s website is accessible for people with disabilities.
  • Be inspired by other companies that are doing good work in the disability inclusion space.

What you can do: There are concrete steps you can take to make disability inclusion a priority in your company’s diversity work.