Given the competitive landscape facing many small business owners, and the strict lending guidelines that make obtaining funding a challenge, the last thing entrepreneurs need is to assume more risk.
For this reason, many businesses are wary of hiring disabled workers.
Whether it's the cost of accommodations, legal liabilities, or preconceived notions about productivity, business owners are inclined to focus on perceived risks to the bottom line.
By making fair employment decisions, however, a business can discover the hidden value of hiring disabled workers, enhance its reputation in the marketplace, and continue to prosper.
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Some business owners believe there are a number of inherent risks in hiring disabled workers. The first is that these employees have higher rates of absenteeism, which can undermine productivity. This is related to the misconception that disabled workers cannot meet performance standards.
Another myth is that hiring disabled workers will increase workers' compensation insurance rates. There is also a perception that investing in technology and equipment designed to help these workers perform their job duties may be too costly for businesses with tight budget constraints.
Contrary to these inaccurate risk assessments, however, studies have shown that disabled workers do not take more time off due to health problems and that their performance is similar to that of non-disabled individuals. As for workers compensation insurance, these rates are determined not by whether disabled workers are employed, but rather the relative hazards of the enterprise and its workplace accident history.
Lastly, the cost of making accommodations for these workers is far lower than employers believe. In addition, investing in adaptive technology and new equipment often leads to enhanced efficiency and productivity.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a program that is designed to help disabled individuals get back to work while offering tax incentives to businesses that hire these workers. For individuals who are receiving social security disability benefits, the Ticket-to-Work program provides recipients between the ages of 18 and 65 with a range of services through third party providers.
Employment Networks (ENs) under contract with the SSA offer career counseling and job placement assistance to individuals participating in the program, and continue to counsel those who have who have returned to work. Workers who cannot return to the job they performed before becoming disabled can be retrained for other types of employment through Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies (VRs).
In sum, the Ticket to Work program offers benefit recipients the option of returning to work. If they are unable to continue working due to their disability, they can immediately receive their previous monthly payments and health care benefits.
Tax Benefits to Employers
The Ticket-to-Work program also offers significant tax benefits to employers as an incentive to hire and train disabled workers. The tax credits are designed to offset the costs of accommodating these employees and making the workplace accessible to them.
The first incentive is the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) which allows an employer to claim a tax credit for filling a vacant position with a WTOC-certified employee. The tax credit is a portion of the new employee's salary based on the number of hours worked. For example, in the first year of employment.
An employer can claim a tax credit equal to 40 percent of the first-year wages provided that the individual works at least 400 hours. While other tax credits are available, there is a cap on the maximum amount of credits an employer can earn.
Another tax advantage available to businesses is the Disabled Access Credit. This tax credit rewards small businesses (those earning not more than $1 million in revenue or with 30 or fewer full-time employees) that make the workplace accessible to disabled individuals. The tax credit can be applied to a variety of costs such as purchasing adaptive equipment, making interpreters available for the hearing impaired, or revising print materials or computer equipment for blind individuals.
In addition, there is an Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction available to any size business that eliminates architectural and transportation impediments to the mobility of disabled workers. These adaptations include making parking spaces, walkways, and building entrances accessible to disabled workers.
In short, these incentives not only lower a business's tax burden but internal costs as well. However, the tax credits can only be taken provided if expenditures qualify under relevant provisions of the Internal Revenue code. Nonetheless, the Ticket-to-Work program is a win-win for workers with disabilities and prospective employers.
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The Bottom Line
Businesses that hire disabled workers can take advantage of intangible benefits these individuals can provide. Not only are these employees as productive as non-disabled workers, engaging this community can give your business access to the purchasing power of their families and friends.
In addition, hiring disabled workers will enhance your reputation in the marketplace and attract other consumers. At the same time, it is essential to select candidates who have the necessary skills and can bring value to your company. In the end, by relying on the talent of disabled workers, a small business can continue to grow.