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It’s a pleasure to be here at another Wellington Chamber of Commerce event, and thank you to PwC for hosting us this morning.

Wellington is a thriving and culturally vibrant city. It has a reputation for being open-minded, with a smart and diverse business community.

It’s a city that appreciates and values diversity and inclusion — it should be no different when it comes to employment.

The employment of all New Zealanders is a priority for the National Government.

Employing disabled people is an important part of this, and one of my top priorities as Minister for Disability Issues. 

We know the value of having a job, whether you’re disabled or not. Yes, work provides economic independence, but it’s not just about money; it also improves well-being. 

Work helps us build a better future ourselves, our families, and it connect us to our community. 

Here’s some numbers that may surprise you, 24 per cent of New Zealanders, or 1.1 million people, identify as disabled.

An estimated five per cent of New Zealanders — that’s 242,000 people — suffer from disabling depression or anxiety, and many more experience mental illness in one form or another.

In the 2013 Disability Survey, 62 per cent of disabled people who weren’t in work said they wanted to be.  Yet we know the rate of unemployment for people with a disability is 50 per cent higher than the unemployment rate of the total workforce.

There’s a large untapped talent pool of people who want to work, are ready to work and need very little support to do so.

Most disabled people don’t need anything different to perform their job.

For the approximately 10 per cent of disabled people that do need modifications to their work area or support equipment, the Government may be able to provide assistance.

Modification Grants are available from Work & Income, together with a range of other targeted services.

I’ll talk about that in a bit more detail shortly.

 

Disability Confident campaign: 

The Disability Confident campaign arose out of conversations I had with employers about the need for practical tools and information to hire and retain disabled people.

The campaign is a partnership between the Government and the private sector to give employers like yourselves the confidence to employ disabled people.

Together, we can create a positive and open work culture, and make a difference to your businesses and your communities.

Most employers know that to build and sustain business growth they need a talented, committed, engaged and diverse workforce. 

And because one in four New Zealanders have some form of disability, it’s easy to see that disabled people are also a large portion of any business’ customer base.

It’s therefore a smart business move to have a diverse workforce that can relate to customers and understand their needs.

Having a diverse workforce makes a brand stronger, it gives a business diverse perspectives, and a greater variety of solutions to problems in service, sourcing, and allocation of resources.

This in turn makes a business more flexible and adaptable — a crucial skill in these changing times.  It also creates a drive towards higher productivity, as all employees are inspired to perform to their highest ability.

Z Energy and AccorHotels are both successful employers focused on growing a diverse workforce.

AccorHotels, a French multinational hotels group with branches all over the world, including four locations in Wellington, has a focus on including disabled people in its workforce.

Sarah Keenan, AccorHotels’ Regional Learning and Development Manager, is here today. I encourage you to have a chat to Sarah about the many benefits of hiring a diverse workforce, including disabled people.

The businesses that want to become disability confident now, the trailblazers like you here this morning, will not only gain access to a talented group of dedicated employees, but will also be able to shape things to come in this space; creating and seizing the opportunities offered by a changing global market with consumers from all over the world and all walks of life, including disabled people. 

AccorHotels and many international businesses think it’s a smart business move to employ and retain disabled people in their workforce, and so do I.

 

Practical and useful information:

Before entering politics, I too worked in business, so I know the importance of having practical, easily accessible information. 

Everything you need to know can be found by either visiting the Disability Confident campaign website, by calling the Employers Advice line or by contacting one of the MSD offices throughout the Wellington region.

The Disability Confident website — msd.govt.nz/DisabilityConfidentNZ[i] — has information on how to employ disabled staff, meet their needs, the benefits to business, and what free services and assistance are available when hiring disabled people.

The Employer Advice Line is, as the name suggests, a dedicated advice line for employers to ask questions, and seek advice and guidance when hiring or supporting disabled employees. 

Experienced organisations such as Work and Income and Workbridge are also available to match the right person to the right job, as well as support new employees settling in at work.

 

Closing remarks and thanks: 

As business people and as employers, you have the ability to make a huge difference in the lives of disabled people, your communities, and your bottom line. 

You have the opportunity to increase the skills and diversity of your workforce and future proof your business approach.

And the Government is here to help you achieve that.

 

Thank you.

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