According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, only 21.3% of individuals with disabilities were employed in 2022. In contrast, 65.4% of people without disabilities were employed within the same period. When it comes to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), the job market can be even more challenging.
Despite legal protections and growing awareness of the capabilities of people with IDD, finding and keeping employment can still be a struggle. Reports of layoffs, hiring freezes, and trends like quiet quitting make it difficult to secure and maintain employment. However, it’s important to understand the unique challenges that people with IDD face in the job market and the trends shaping their employment opportunities.
In this article, we will explore 3 key trends in the job market for people with IDD and what the numbers show.
Hybrid and Remote Working
For the past half-century, architectural design features and national laws have ensured that all workers perform their duties in the workplace environment. However, the last three years have accelerated advancements in digitalization and seen a shift toward a knowledge-based economy, making hybrid working the new normal.
According to the 2022 National Employment & Disability Survey, flexible work arrangements have doubled since 2017. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many companies to embrace hybrid and remote working to maintain business operations while minimizing the risk of infection. With 16% of people experiencing significant disability globally, remote and hybrid working arrangements can greatly benefit people with IDD.
Remote work allows for greater flexibility in work schedules and locations. It eliminates physical barriers that may prevent people with IDD from accessing traditional workplaces.
However, it’s important to note that remote work is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Some individuals may struggle with the lack of structure and routine that comes with working from home. Others may require additional support or accommodations to be successful in a remote work environment.
To truly support a disability-inclusive hybrid and remote working, employers should:
Train and Support Line Managers
Employers should educate line managers on disability awareness and managing remote teams effectively. This will help them better understand and support the needs of employees with IDD, ensure fair treatment, and prevent discrimination.
Consultation with employees with IDD and their advocates ensures that employers consider their needs and preferences when designing and implementing remote and hybrid working arrangements. As such, employers should establish regular communication and feedback mechanisms to identify any barriers or issues employees face and address them promptly and effectively.
Explore Wider Forms of Flexibility
Employers should explore a range of flexible working arrangements beyond remote and hybrid working. This is to accommodate the diverse needs of people with IDD. This could include part-time work, job sharing, flexible hours, and other forms of flexible working arrangements.
Emphasis on Mental Health
A 2021 study by Pew Research Center showed that 21% of adults had mental health difficulties. In some workplaces, mental illness subjects are taboo. However, this is changing as employers are becoming more aware of the importance of mental health support.
Employers now recognize the impact of mental health on the productivity and well-being of their employees. That’s because such conditions can exacerbate existing challenges and affect work performance, leading to absenteeism and high turnover rates.
To address this issue, employers are implementing initiatives to support the mental health of their employees with disabilities. These initiatives may include mental health resources, such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), wellness programs, and mental health education. EAPs provide employees access to mental health resources and support services like therapy.
Microsoft is a good example of companies that has implemented mental health initiatives for employees with disabilities. Other companies include Barclays, Bell, and Akamai. They offer a range of mental health support resources, such as a mental health hotline and online resources. What’s more, their disability inclusion efforts focus on creating a culture that values mental health as an important aspect of diversity.
End of Subminimum Wages in 2023
Subminimum wage refers to paying people with disabilities less than the minimum wage. This practice was introduced in the United States under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 allowing employers to pay workers with disability less than the minimum wage. According to the then Labor Secretary, Frances Perkins, individuals who, due to illness, age, or other factors, can’t meet the normal productivity levels, qualify for subminimum wages.
For many years, this practice has been criticized as discriminatory and exploitative. It perpetuates the belief that people with disabilities are worth less than other workers. However, efforts to eliminate subminimum wages for people with IDD have gained momentum recently, with several states passing legislation to phase out this practice.
What’s the Reason for This?
Besides technological advancements and shifting consumer demands, many restaurant owners face labor shortages. A report by the National Restaurant Association shows that as of December 2022, the restaurant industry has yet to recover from the pandemic, with 462,000 jobs still down compared to the pre-pandemic levels. To bring workers back, more states are considering eliminating subminimum wages.
For instance, in 2022, Henry Dargan McMaster, South Carolina Governor, signed a bill to end subminimum wage for people with disabilities. The bill was supported by many businesses and employers who recognized the importance of paying people with IDD fair wages. Many believe the move will attract and retain workers, including those with disabilities, as the job market becomes increasingly competitive.
It’s important to note that this trend is not limited to the restaurant industry. More businesses across sectors are recognizing the importance of fair pay and equal opportunities for people with IDD.
Advocating for the Rights of Individuals With Developmental Disabilities
The job market for people with IDD is constantly evolving, and the trends suggest a more positive future. These developments offer the potential for greater independence and financial stability for people with IDD, as well as increased understanding and acceptance from society. However, challenges still exist, and we must continue to advocate for equal opportunities for people with IDD,
Since 1984, Venture Foundation has been creating awareness about individuals with developmental disabilities. By supporting our cause, you can make a difference in the lives of individuals with IDD and help create a more inclusive society.
Contact us to learn more about available support opportunities and how you can get involved.