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Disability Rights Are Becoming a CSR Issue: Are You Ready?

On Jan. 23, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli called on major corporations to be more proactive in demonstrating their disability inclusion efforts. The announcement essentially catapulted disability inclusion into the corporate accountability mainstream, putting it on par with environmental, social, and governance (ESG), and corporate social responsibility (CSR) concerns and initiatives.

DiNapoli asked nearly 50 companies in New York State’s pension portfolio to measure and report inclusion across their enterprise, starting this year. According to published reports, DiNapoli even recommended that disability inclusion data be measured and reported using a benchmarking tool called the Disability Equality Index.

Still, many corporations will resist emphasizing disability inclusion in their ESG or CSR reports or planning because they think of inclusion as compliance. Too often, business leaders think of it as something costly and a part of risk management, not as corporate social responsibility.

It’s a wrong assumption that an automated leave management system can help set right. An automated, constantly updated leave management system gives employers of any size the confidence to know all the implications of disability leave and accommodations are sorted out for them. An automated system is the best way to ensure compliance, avoid legal and employment risk, and also improve your corporate brand by being proactively inclusive.

And regardless of whether you consider disability inclusion part of CSR, your business is likely to be increasingly affected by disability as a topic of hiring, leave management, and workplace accommodations. An estimated 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a disability. As the population ages — combined with more people working longer — this number will only rise, experts say. 

Also, nearly 20 percent of people of working age have a disability, and close to 70 percent of them are unemployed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Those numbers represent a potentially very high number of people without jobs in a booming job market.

And if you think there isn’t increasing sentiment for being proactive about disability inclusion as part of ESG or social responsibility, then at least consider it as good for your business. Disability inclusion — and having the tools in place to properly manage disability leaves and accommodations — is a corporate social responsibility with a huge upside: jobs and a jump-start on profits.

A study from Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and the AAPD, showed for the first time that companies that champion people with disabilities outperform others, based on profitability and shareholder returns. To put a finer point on it, companies that improved internal practices for disability inclusion were four times more likely to see higher total shareholder returns.

The research identified five common denominators among such organizations:

  1. They hire people with disabilities.
  2. They carry out practices that encourage and advance those employees.
  3. They provide accessible tools and technologies, paired with a formal accommodations program.
  4. They generate awareness through recruitment efforts, disability education programs, and grassroots-led initiatives.
  5. They create empowering environments through mentoring and coaching initiatives.

A quality foundational automated leave management solution like Optis LeaveXpert Essential will meet the most critical capabilities of a leave management system, including federal and state FMLA regulations, and automated alerts, correspondence, and task management. Ready right out of the box, LeaveXpert Essential doesn’t require any add-ons or the purchase of any additional feature downloads.

Optis LeaveXpert Plus offers support for reverse data feeds, custom reporting, and historic case migration. LeaveXpert Unlimited is, meanwhile, built specifically for organizations with complex leave and absence management needs. 

But fully adapting to disability inclusion requires more than leave management and accommodations. Reporting on ESG or CSR initiatives and developing inclusive hiring and training strategies are significant undertakings for larger companies. An integrated data warehouse system for all of our people data can mitigate those challenges and positively impact all five of the key characteristics of companies that are exemplary at hiring and retaining people with disabilities.

Optis Insights, for example, is uniquely designed to support the complex people-data needs of enterprise employers, insurers, and third-party administrators. It’s employee and HR data-management software that mitigates risk and delivers greater insight into the data that lives in all of your HR data systems. To support ESG, CRS, and inclusion efforts, Optis Insights puts you in control of the data you need to remove the uncertainty and drastically cut the time for getting high-quality, centralized data and total transparency into your people data.

The bottom line is that disability rights, hiring strategies, leave management, and workplace accommodations will increasingly grow as trends U.S. business should be aware of and respond to.