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Many people don’t know that one in four kiwis is disabled. It’s easy for employers to overlook people with disabilities while hunting for the ideal candidate. According to former Z retailer Selwyn Cook, this is a mistake for any business.

In his new role as Disability Employment Ambassador – a position made possible through a partnership between Z and Workbridge, Selwyn brings his experience to the fore. Over the last four years he’s employed over 85 people with disabilities and reckons this is an untapped pool of high calibre employees.

“It’s not about being ‘nice’ - it’s about making a smart business decision,” says Selwyn. 

Selwyn’s experience is that employees with disabilities bring more commitment and work ethic to their roles. They also take fewer sick days and last longer in their jobs, which contributes to lower staff turnover and reduced costs in areas such as training and recruitment.

Selwyn didn’t always see things this way. When he first met disabled job seeker Chris Simpson he immediately noticed his crutches and missing limbs, and assumed that he wouldn’t be up to the task.

 “I basically fobbed him off in the nicest possible way," says Selwyn.

Chris asked for five minutes of Selwyn’s time, and this turned into six years of steady employment.

“Chris became a shining example of everything I wanted in an employee. He just added and added – delighting our customers and our team.”

This year Selwyn won the Local Hero Award in the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards for his contributions to disability advocacy and support.

He’s now on a mission to change other employers’ minds in his new role with Workbridge, a free specialist employment service that works with people with all types of disability, injury or illness to match them to the right job. The role has been created in partnership with Z to help other employers across New Zealand proactively create more opportunities for people with disabilities.

Selwyn’s top tips for hiring and working with people with disabilities:

1. Advertising for a role? Think outside of the box


Consider using a service like Workbridge who can match a skilled disabled person to your role. They also offer excellent support and advice.

2. Interviewing a disabled person? Be straight up


Don’t avoid talking about someone’s disability when you’re interviewing them for a role. Be straight up and discuss how they see the role being performed with their disability.

3. Hiring? Get the rest of your team involved

Some people think that disabled employees are hired because of their disability, not their skills. Involving your team in the hiring process can give them a chance to understand how a candidate is actually the best person for the role, and not get hung up on their disability.

4. Need to make work place changes to better support your disabled employee?


Once you’ve hired someone with a disability, take the time to learn about any tools or equipment that can help them do their job. Most physical changes, new equipment or technology can be funded by the Ministry of Social Development through the Job Support Fund, which is administrated by Workbridge.

5. Off the clock? Continue to foster an inclusive workplace

If you’re planning activities outside the workplace, such as events, team building activities, or community projects, consider how you can involve your whole team so that disabled employees don’t feel left out.

Got questions? 

Find out more about Selwyn's Workbridge Employer Ambassador role created in partnership with Z or drop us a line at yourviews@z.co.nz. 

Banner image courtesy of AttitudeLive.com

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