In Ethiopia, as elsewhere, companies, organizations and employers of all kinds are seeking to attract the most talented and reliable employees in order to become more competitive. Many employers are recognizing the benefits of hiring a diverse workforce, including qualified workers with disabilities. However, companies are facing challenges in employing and retaining persons with disabilities. Indeed, they are often confronted with complying with related laws, making their workplaces accessible and raising awareness among staff in order to collectively create a disability inclusive work environment. Many could benefit from the knowledge and best practices of other companies, both in Ethiopia and in other countries.
International Laboure Organization (ILO) facilitated the establishment in 2010 of a Global Business and Disability Network, comprising multinational enterprises, employer federations and disabled persons’ organizations. It was formed to assist companies to manage disability in the workplace and to prepare and implement a strategic business plan on disability inclusion. The Global Network promotes good practices in the wider business community through business-to-business knowledge sharing and helps develop products and services that respond to expressed needs and demands of Network members. It is the only global business network focusing on disability inclusion in the workplace.
The Ethiopian Business and Disability Network (EBDN) addresses disability as a diversity issue from a private-sector perspective. It does this through information and knowledge sharing, joint action, improving technical skills of members, their networks and staff, and through corporate social responsibility activities. It assists local companies to adapt products and services to the needs of customers with disabilities. The EBDN fosters the development of a workforce culture that is respectful and inclusive, promoting the hiring, retention and professional development of women and men with disabilities. The EBDN promotes business awareness about the positive relationship between the inclusion of people with disabilities, as workers, customers and share-holders, and business success.
A Core Group of founding business leaders from both public and private companies in Ethiopia meets periodically to guide the development of the Network. A growing number of local companies are joining the Network in order to learn about the benefits of hiring workers with disabilities and thus becoming more competitive. Membership is free. The Network enjoys a close working relationship with the Society of Human Resource Management in Ethiopia (SHRME) and many company Human Resource Managers are members of the EBDN. In addition, the EBDN partners with the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations in promoting awareness of the benefits to companies that increase their workforce diversity by employing persons with disabilities.The EBDN was initiated by the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD), a local non-governmental development organization working with employers to provide skills training, internships and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. ECDD continues to provide support to and facilitate meetings of the EBDN.
As a member of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network (GBDN), the Ethiopian Business and Disability Network supports and promotes its charter principles among its members. The ten principles of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network Charter provide a framework to help companies achieve business success while simultaneously creating equal opportunities for people with disabilities.
Promote and respect the rights of persons with disabilities by raising awareness and combatting stigma and stereotypes faced by persons with disabilities.
Develop policies and practices that protect persons with disabilities from all types of discrimination.
Promote equal treatment and equal opportunities for persons with disabilities by providing reasonable accommodation in the recruitment process, on-the-job, apprenticeships, training, job retention, career development and other relevant terms and conditions of employment.
Progressively make the company premises and communication to staff accessible for all employees with disabilities.
Undertake appropriate measures to enable current employees who acquire a disability to retain or return to their employment.
Respect confidentiality of personal information regarding disability.
Consider the needs of those persons with disabilities who face particular challenges accessing the labour market, including persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities.
Promote employment of persons with disabilities among business partners and other companies and collaborate with national employer and business networks on disability as well as with organizations working to advance the rights of persons with disabilities.
Review regularly the company disability inclusion policies and practices for their effectiveness.
Report on company efforts to promote the employment of persons with disabilities to all relevant stakeholders and share information and experiences with the members of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network. The ILO will utilize the company reports and practices in its own communication, wherever relevant.