Enabled Employment: Canberra start-up helping people with disability find work

Posted 9 Oct 2017

Story by CBR Canberra

For many, working a traditional 9-5 job is a normal part of life. But for anyone living with disability, working full-time is sometimes not an option.

Thanks to an innovative Canberra start-up, Enabled Employment, people with a disability are now able to find flexible, productive and well-paid working arrangements that suit their conditions.

Enabled Employment provides a recruitment service to people who are highly skilled, but live with a disability and require flexible work.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate for people with disability is 9.4 per cent, compared to 4.9 per cent for those without. Mental illness disabilities hold the lowest employment participation rate at 29.1 per cent, with sufferers more likely to face greater work disruptions due to the episodic nature of their disability.

Enabled Employment CEO, Jess May, says the company is working to change the attitudes of employers so that people with disability are not forgotten or put in the ‘too hard’ basket.

“90 per cent of people living with disability are qualified and skilled workers, but do not qualify for government support when seeking employment. We help change attitudes by presenting our candidates in a merit selection process and negotiate reasonable adjustments for them once they are successful in their application,” says Jess.

Aside from people living with disability, Enabled Employment also work with Australian Defence Force veterans and their supporting family, senior Australians, carers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – all who face barriers when entering the workforce.

“We want employers to think differently about both disability and diversity in the workplace and understand that they don’t necessarily mean a greater investment of time or resources,” says Jess.

The idea behind Enabled Employment came from Jess’ own experience as a worker with disability. Following the birth of her first child, she was diagnosed with post-partum thyroiditis and a panic disorder. Jess says she became the victim of workplace discrimination after her employer found out about her disability.

“I wanted to return to my full-time job, but faced discrimination after disclosing my disabilities. I knew that working helped my anxiety, but despite being highly commended and a skilled worker, I couldn’t find work that I could do flexibly and from a place that was most comfortable for me,” says Jess.

After taking her business idea to the Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre, Jess was awarded an Innovation Connect Grant to support the development of the website, which acts as an employment portal for people with disability. She was then accepted into the GRIFFFIN Accelerator Program to further develop the company before it was launched in September 2014. Fast-forward 3 years and Enabled Employment has over 8000 candidates and nearly 400 businesses using their services, including multiple government agencies throughout Australia.

Jess says it has been great seeing so many Canberra employers begin implementing inclusion and tolerance policies, but there is still more that can be done for diversity in the workplace.

“Many companies in Canberra do not tolerate discrimination in any form in the workplace and have implemented policies for inclusion and tolerance. People understand what acceptable behaviour is and what it isn’t, but we still need to work on changing the declining number of people who are employed with a disability,” says Jess.

As for the future of Enabled Employment, Jess says establishing the company as a leader in diverse employment both nationally and internationally is a key focus for the coming years.

“Ideally, we would like to have a presence in the global market and be working with corporate partners to roll out a revolution in the way all recruitment companies operate,” says Jess.

To learn more about Enabled Employment, you can visit their website.

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