Remote work is allowed by 84% of employers, and it’s helped improve the disabled employment rate

Supervisors have become more intentional about disability hiring and accommodations over the last five years.
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Disabled Americans are employed at higher rates than ever before, and according to a new survey by disability nonprofit Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire Center for Research on Disability, employers have made significant changes in recent years to be more inclusive of workers with disabilities.

Companies’ embrace of remote and flexible work and prioritization of hiring more disabled workers have contributed to the progress, but disabled people still face higher rates of unemployment and workplace discrimination than their non-disabled peers, and experts say HR leaders need to address this within their organizations.

By the numbers. The study gauged supervisors’ and senior managers’ sentiment and efforts around hiring disabled workers, and compared them with data collected the last time this survey was conducted, in 2017

Remote work flexibility. The most significant finding from this year’s survey was the surge in remote work options, with 84% of respondents saying they now allow employees to work remote some or most of the time. In 2017, so few employers reported allowing remote work that John O’Neill, director at the Center for Employment and Disability Research and a co-author of the study, told HR Brew that he and his colleagues didn’t publish the numbers.

A recent analysis by public policy organization the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) identified remote work as one of the major factors improving the disabled employment rate. “Remote occupations have seen the biggest increase in the disabled share of workers, which suggests remote work is enabling job opportunities across the board,” Adam Ozimek, EIG’s chief economist, wrote.

Arlene S. Kanter, director of the Disability Law and Policy program at Syracuse University law school, told the New York Times that employers should think about their disabled workers as they enforce return to office mandates. “If other people can show that they can perform their work well at home, as they did during Covid, then people with disabilities, as a matter of accommodation, shouldn’t be denied that right.”—KP

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HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.