FWI and SHRM Report Shows Missed Opportunities for the Employment of People with Disabilities

Employee resource groups and formal staffing plans among HR tools that could be better used

Oct 1, 2014

NEW YORK — Employers in the United States are attuned to the needs of employees with disabilities when it comes to readjusting tasks when needed but largely lack concerted efforts to attract and hire these employees, according to information released today from a national report by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Effective and flexible workplaces serve a variety of organizational goals including reducing real estate costs, reaching into markets on the other side of the globe, and enhancing employee retention and productivity. Another advantage of such workplaces is the ability to better attract, develop and retain the talents of qualified employees, including those with disabilities.

While many conversations about employing people with disabilities focus on the physical changes needed to provide access to workplaces (e.g., ramps, elevators, specialized workspaces), procedural adjustments, such as greater workplace flexibility, are also useful tools for creating an environment in which employees with disabilities can succeed.

The 2014 National Study of Employers (NSE) supplemental report the “Talents of Employees with Disabilities” found:

  • Small employers are more likely than large employers to offer five different kinds of workplace flexibility: to change starting and quitting times within some range of hours (33 percent vs. 20 percent), to work some regular paid hours at home occasionally (11 percent vs. 4 percent), to have control over when to take breaks (66 percent vs. 52 percent), to return to work gradually after childbirth or adoption (52 percent vs. 36 percent) and to take time off during the workday to attend to important family or personal needs without loss of pay (20 percent vs. 16 percent).
  • Eighty-four percent of employers who were asked if they would allow “employees with disabilities” to reallocate task assignments said yes.
  • Fifty-nine percent who were asked if they had formal staffing plans that included provisions for the hiring and retention of people with disabilities said no.
  • Only 10 percent of employers have employee resource groups for employees with similar backgrounds or interests, causing a particular problem for employees with disabilities.

“Employers maintain a number of policies that support the inclusion of all employees, with and without disabilities. However, it appears that smaller employers are more likely than large employers to reinvent work for a broad array of employees. On the other hand, small employers are less likely to proactively consider how to do so compared to large organizations with formal opportunities for identifying why and how they can be more inclusive,” said Kenneth Matos, FWI’s senior director of research and author of the report.

The NSE report revealed that two human resource management techniques that could contribute to better applying the talents of all employees, including those with disabilities, were uncommon.

First, the fact that so few employers have employee resource groups reveals a missed opportunity to have employees with disabilities collaborate with one another and the organization to reinforce the value of workplace flexibility for themselves, for employees and for the organization’s bottom line. Organizations that can unify the efforts of employees to create more flexible and effective workplaces should be better able to develop solutions that benefit everyone.

Second, the 2014 NSE asked employers if they had formal staffing plans that included provisions for the hiring and retention of people with disabilities. Overall, the responses broke down into three groups:

  • Thirty-nine percent had a formal plan that included such provisions.
  • Nine percent had a formal plan that did not include such provisions.
  • Fifty percent didn’t have any formal plan.

The 2014 NSE, conducted as part of the When Work Works partnership between FWI and SHRM, highlights the changing state of flexibility in the nation today.

The 2014 National Study of Employers (NSE) surveyed a representative national sample of 1,051 for-profit (67 percent of the sample) and nonprofit employers (33 percent of the sample) with 50 or more employees by telephone interviews and web surveys (mode determined by respondent preference) with human resource directors.

To read the full NSE supplemental report, please visit:

Media: For more information or to request an interview, please contact Eve Tahmincioglu of FWI at 212-716-1842 and Eve@Familiesandwork.org or Kate Kennedy of SHRM Public Affairs at 703-535-6260 and Kate.kennedy@shrm.org

About Families and Work Institute
Families and Work Institute (FWI) is a nonprofit research-to-action institute dedicated to providing research for living in today’s changing workplace, changing family and changing community. Since the Institute was founded in 1989, our work has addressed issues in three major areas: the workforce/workplace, youth and early childhood. Families and Work Institute’s research takes on emerging issues before they crest and includes some of the most comprehensive research on the U.S. workforce available. The Institute’s work has helped change the language of debates to move the discussion forward toward more effective and data-driven solutions and to result in action. In addition, because the Institute conducts some of the only research studies of their kind, our studies are quoted in the media more than once a day and are regularly cited by decision makers in business, government, and the public. For more information, visit www.familiesandwork.org, like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/FWINews, follow us on Twitter at @FWINews and share with us on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/families-and-work-institute.

About the Society for Human Resource Management
Founded in 1948, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR membership organization devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 275,000 members in over 160 countries, the Society provides resources to serve the needs of HR professionals and advance the professional practice of human resource management. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and United Arab Emirates. Visit SHRM Online at www.shrm.org and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


Join us for the largest and best HR conference in the world, June 23-26, 2019 in Las Vegas.



Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect