How to Build an Inclusive Workforce

Four keys to ensure that People with Disabilities can flourish in your business 


Earlier this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Employment Equity Amendment Act into law. While the proclamation of the implementation date is still pending, the Minister of Employment and Labour can establish equity targets for various economic sectors as well as prescribe demographic targets for designated employers (companies with 50+ employees). 


While EE targets are still being finalised, the Chairperson of the Commission for Employment Equity, Tabea Kabinde, has stated that transformation in the workplace has been particularly slow when it comes to people with disabilities (PWDs). Currently, PWDs only make up 1,2% of the workforce and according to Kabinde, the amended act proposes a new target of 2%, emphasising that there must be a demonstrable commitment by companies to employ PWDs.


Rajan Naidoo, the Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy, believes this could pose a challenge as most companies are not geared yet towards accommodating PWDs. “Many workplaces face difficulties in providing adequate resources for People with Disabilities, inadvertently leading to their potential exclusion and, often unknowingly, restricting opportunities for them to engage in meaningful work,” he elaborates. 


As the Head of EduPower with 25 years’ experience in education, Naidoo is highly regarded as a top learnership provider, facilitating impactful diversity employment through the successful training of numerous PWD graduates, who have gone on to establish rewarding careers.


Drawing from his experience of creating workplace environments where PWDs thrive, Naidoo says there are four key areas that companies need to focus on to address this:


1. Accessibility 

The cornerstone of an inclusive workplace lies in accessibility. Companies must prioritise universal accessibility when designing their physical spaces. This begins with providing facilities tailored to people with disabilities, encompassing ramps, elevators, and accessible restrooms for employees with mobility challenges. At EduPower, we’ve accomplished this through a fully customised environment catering to diverse disabilities. This approach has been instrumental in developing a supportive and enabling environment, empowering PWDs to achieve their full potential.


2. Reasonable Accommodation Practices

Reasonable accommodations include ergonomic workstations, modified work schedules, assistive technologies or other adjustments that enable equal participation and productivity. At EduPower we offer several tailored solutions that cater for every individual’s needs. By proactively removing physical and cognitive barriers, we have created a learning space where learners can flourish, regardless of their disability.


3. Logistics

Most public transport does not accommodate PWDs, and the limited availability of accessible transportation can lead to restricted travel options and longer wait times. EduPower has, therefore, implemented flexible schedules enabling PWDs to commute at more convenient times. We also partner with various speciality transportation services and offer parking spaces closer to our entrance to make it easier for our PWDs to access our facilities.


4. Inclusive Work Culture

A workplace thrives on an inclusive culture that values diversity and promotes mutual respect. To foster this, employers need to proactively engage each employee, and whilst acknowledging their individual value, integrate the differing views, skills, and talents of all staff. Proactive training of employees to understand the significance of diverse perspectives and equipping them with the ability to collaborate with and support people with disabilities effectively fosters an environment where all contributions are embraced. This will also go a long way towards the seamless and harmonious integration of PWDs and encourage them to embrace their unique abilities, bolstering their confidence and self-esteem. 

Naidoo also urges companies considering entry-level PWD candidates to adopt learnerships as a strategic means of building a diversified workforce. “Placing PWD candidates in learnerships, not only adds points to their organisation’s B-BBEE scorecard, but it also enables customised training, empowering their candidates with essential skills and experience,” he states. “Moreover, these programmes also function as a 12-month screening process, allowing the evaluation of candidates’ potential and alignment with the organisation.”

EduPower has set a benchmark for providing life-changing learnerships for PWDs and is now sharing its knowledge with companies that are embracing PWDs in their workforce. With the amended Employment Equity legislation also addressing the inclusion of PWDs, learnerships like those offered by EduPower will be instrumental in building a more equitable future for South Africa’s workforce.

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