Managing Employees With Disabilities


People with disabilities can make significant economic contributions to the growth of organizations and by extension enhance the world’s economy. Recognizing that people with disabilities can work at various levels of the economy, disability management practices provide an environment that nurtures the unique talents amongst the disabled and gives them chance to participate in building a better society. Rossi defines disability management as “the process of limiting a disabling event, providing immediate intervention once an injury or illness occurs, and returning the individual to work promptly” (2003, p. 22).

Therefore, disability management entails helping people with disabilities to cope with their shortcomings by providing timely interventions that enable them to resume their work in time. The disabling events not only affect the employees who have suffered injuries or illness but also the employers because of the reduced productivity of the employees. The objective of the disability management practices is to ensure effective mobilization of disabled workers in workplaces to enhance their expertise and productivity, hence valuable human resources to the organization. Since disability is an economic burden, how does a disability management practice such as job retention and recruitment affect employers and employees in the workplace?

Economic Burden

Disability is an economic burden that requires effective management for organizations and individuals to realize their potential and goals. According to International Labour Organization (ILO), “effective workplace disability management practices based on evidence, best practice and experience enable workers with disabilities to contribute productively to the enterprise and to maintain valuable work expertise” (2001, p.5). The International Labour Organization is advocating for standard disability management practices that would ensure equal treatment of disabled employees in their workplaces hence protecting them against discrimination. Disability management seeks to provide equal jobs opportunities in the workplaces, develop capacity for employment of disabled people, promote safety and health of employees, and minimize disability costs while maximizing the abilities of disabled employees in workplaces (Bruyere, 2006, p.13). Normally, disabled employees encounter discrimination in the course of their employment or during recruitment as employers deem that they are incompetent and therefore cannot make any significant contribution to the organizations.

It requires cooperative efforts from employers, workers, governments, workers’ organizations, and disabled people’s organizations to bear the economic burden of disabilities in the workplaces. Physical and mental injuries or illnesses that employees encounter in their workplaces incapacitate their capacities making them unable to contribute significantly to their respective organizations. Disability management practice comes in handy as it provides means of enhancing the potential of disabled employees so that they can make an effective contribution as before disability and minimizes employer’s losses in retaining and employing more disabled workers.

Carruthers and Harnett assert that “many companies with disability management, absence management, and return-to-work policies and procedures pride themselves on their innovative programs to assist employees who experience disabilities because of occupational or non-occupational illnesses and injuries” (2008, p.12). Therefore, disability management is a noble practice that involves accepting disabled employees and redesigning the work environment to provide favourable working places that satisfy their special needs, hence motivating them to work towards productivity. Disability as an economic burden and disability management practice as a way of alleviating the burden affects both employers and employees.

Job Retention and Recruitment Practice

Retention of disabled employees in workplaces is a great challenge to employers since there would be compromised productivity in an organization. On the other hand, disabled employees may also experience great challenges in the course of their work because of their special needs and customized work environment that aid their incapacities. Brooker, Sinclair, and Clarke reveal that “work-related disability has a negative effect on employees and their families as they experience pain, suffering, and anxiety, while on employers, disabilities increase business costs through disability insurance premiums, worker’s compensation premiums, and worker replacement costs” (2007, p. 1). Since the disability management practice of job retention aims at alleviating the negative effects of disabilities, both the employers and employees have an obligation to support the practice for their benefits and those of the organization. For example, workers should have the determination to cope up with the disabling challenges and adapt to new work environments, which provides for their special needs. They must balance between disability and expected capacity to be productive and relevant to their respective organization. Employers on the other hand have to redesign the work environment and change job descriptions to provide for the special needs of disabled employees.

Even though disabled employees barely perform their duties as normal workers, their experiences and expertise are still relevant to their employers. According to International Labour Organization, “…enterprises may gain from the retention of experienced workers who become disabled, and no indications that significant savings can be made in terms of health costs, insurance payments and time lost, if an effective disability management strategy is in place” (2001, p.6). Thus, effective disability management practice of retaining experienced workers not only saves the company from making new recruitment and training of workers, which is an expensive process but also benefits and protects the disabled employees from discrimination and retrenchment due to the incapacity to perform productively. Ultimately, the disability management practice of job retention benefits both the employers and employees for it aims at alleviating the effects of disabilities in workplaces.

Recruitment of employees should not be a discriminatory process that discourages disabled employees from making effective contributions to the organization. The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC), believes that “…employers can benefit from the employment of people with disabilities, who can make a significant contribution at their place of employment, in jobs matched to their skills and abilities, if disability-related issues are appropriately managed” (2003, p.6). Thus, disability management ensures non-discriminative recruitment of employees so that they can have equal economic opportunities as normal workers and improve their living standards. The absence of disability management practice of recruiting employees would lead to the discrimination and marginalization of disabled employees during recruitment and this would plunge them into abject poverty. Therefore, the availability of disability management practice of job retention and recruitment of disabled employees enables employers to plan and manage work environments that provide ample motivation for disabled employees to increase productivity in the workplace.


Disability management practices advocate for the interests of the disabled employees in the workplaces who would otherwise be under discrimination. The practices have significantly changed the perception of employers concerning the contribution of disabled employees. Since disability is an economic burden to both employers and employers, disability management is a cooperative practice that seeks to alleviate the impacts of disability in workplaces. Job retention and recruitment is an integrated disability management practice that benefits both employers and employees. It enables employers to retain experienced workers and plan for the recruitment of others, while employees on the other hand maintain their economic stability and get equal opportunities to explore their abilities.


Brooker, A., Sinclair, S., & Clarke, J. (2007). Effective Disability Management and Return to Work Practices. Disability Review Journal, 16(4): 1-13.

Bruyere, S. (2006). Disability Management and the Enterprise. Korea Employment Promotion Agency for the Disabled, 1-22.

Carruthers, M., & Harnett, C. (2008). Highlighting Best Practices in Human Resources And Disability Management. Disability Management Employer Coalition, 1-23.

International Labor Organization, (2001). Codes of Practice on Managing Disability in The Workplace. Internal Labour Journal, 23, 1-32

Rossi, P. (2003). Case Management in Health Care. New York: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Workplace Health, Safety, and Compensation Commission, (2003). Workplace Disability Management: A Guide to Establishing a Program in Your Workplace. Journal of Disability Management, 15, 1-26.

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