How to support employees with disabilities during COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic is having a harsh impact on adults with disabilities, putting more pressure on employers to adopt better benefits and policies to support staff with special needs.
The unemployment rate for people with disabilities was at 80% in 2019, according to the U.S. Labor Bureau of Statistics. Since the pandemic began in March, 1 in 5 workers with disabilities lost their jobs versus 1 in 7 of their able-bodied peers. Nearly one million jobs have been lost in the disabled community.
“The pandemic has really impacted the disability community much, much more than their able-bodied peers,” says Jessica Tuman, vice president of Voya Cares at Voya Financial. “This is a population that's already marginalized. They're often the first to be laid off, furloughed or forced to stop working because many people with disabilities have health implications, so they're more at risk of contracting COVID-19.”
As a result of the pandemic, those in the special needs community also report experiencing increased anxiety, feelings of isolation or loneliness and disruption in care or limited access to healthcare and specialty care, a recent Voya Care report finds. Additionally, there is a higher level of financial concern around their economic well-being. As a result of COVID-19, members of the special needs community are evaluating their short-term expenses, assessing current assets and relying on savings to accommodate their needs, she says.
The COVID-19 crisis is not only impacting people with disabilities and special needs, but also caregivers.
“Caregivers are also supporting their loved ones who might have a disability at home, maybe a child with a disability or an aging parent at home,” Tuman says. “All of this is compounded by COVID-19.“
Benefits decision makers surveyed by Voya showed a lack of awareness of the increasing numbers of caregivers and people with disabilities and special needs in their workplace. As a result, some employers are not meeting their unique benefits needs, potentially resulting in valued employees leaving their company and increased turnover costs.
From manager training to personalized benefits, here are four things employers can do to foster an inclusive work culture and support employees with disabilities and special needs during the coronavirus pandemic.