About the Study
In 2016, the Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) partnered with the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) to fund contractor Westat to conduct the Survey of Employer Policies on the Employment of People with Disabilities. The survey, administered in 2018, collected information from employers about organizational policies, practices, successes, and challenges, as well as attitudes and beliefs regarding the recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement of people with disabilities. The 2,023 survey respondents represent businesses across the United States. Researchers compared findings from this 2018 survey to results of a 2008 Department of Labor survey on the same topic. This Department of Labor-funded study was a result of the annual process to determine the Department’s research priorities for the upcoming year. It contributes to the labor evidence-base to inform worker protection and disability and employment programs and policies and addresses Departmental strategic goals and priorities.
- Survey of Employer Policies on the Employment of People with Disabilities (Final Report, June 2020)
- Implementation of Disability-Inclusive Workplace Policies and Practices by Federal Contractors and Non-Federal Contractors (Issue Brief, June 2020)
- Implementation and Effectiveness of Disability-Inclusive Workplace Practices and Policies (Issue Brief, June 2020)
- Employer Practices and Attitudes toward the Employment of People with Disabilities (Issue Brief, June 2020)
- To what extent do companies employ, hire, and recruit people with disabilities? Have there been changes over the past decade?
- What are employers’ attitudes about people with disabilities? What do they view as the benefits of hiring people with disabilities? What concerns do they have?
- To what extent are companies implementing disability-inclusive practices? Which inclusive practices are related to hiring people with disabilities?
- To what extent do companies make efforts to recruit service-disabled Veterans? What strategies would be helpful to increase hiring of service-disabled Veterans?
- Do companies’ practices, policies, and attitudes vary by company characteristics?
- Employers have made progress in the last decade, but people with disabilities still comprise a small percentage of companies’ workforces. The percentage of companies that reported employing people with disabilities increased significantly from 18.4% in 2008 to 22.7% in 2018. The increases occurred among medium and large companies (over 50 employees) with no change for small companies.
- The percentage of companies recruiting and hiring people with disabilities increased, but most companies in 2018 were not actively recruiting people with disabilities. In 2008, 13.5% of companies were actively recruiting and hiring people with disabilities, while 17.5% reported the same in 2018. Between 2008 and 2018, companies that reported hiring a person with a disability within the past 12 months increased from 8.5% to 13.5%. Increases in recruitment and hiring were confined to medium and large companies (over 50 employees), with no change among small companies.
- Employers perceive benefits to hiring people with disabilities, but also have concerns that limit active recruiting and hiring of people with disabilities. The most commonly cited benefits included projecting a positive image of a company to customers (72.5% of respondents) and to prospective employees (72.0%), as well as increasing the pool of qualified candidates (60.8%). Despite this, 87% expressed one or more concerns about hiring people with disabilities, the most common being the safety of people with disabilities and their coworkers (59.4%), the ability of people with disabilities to perform job duties (55.5%), and absenteeism (51.7%). Employers who expressed concerns were less likely to recruit or hire people with disabilities.
- Small companies reported more concerns related to cost and work performance than medium-sized and large companies.. goods-producing sector reported more concerns than the service-providing or public administration sectors.
- Most companies reported implementing three inclusive recruitment and hiring practices, but two of these were not found to be significantly related to hiring, retaining, and promoting people with disabilities. The majority of companies reported offering accessible interview locations (91.6%), allowing requests for interview accommodations (80.5%), and posting job announcements displaying a non-discrimination/equal opportunity policy (74.0%). Of these, only offering accessible interview locations was significantly associated with employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Four additional effective practices, such as creating an accessible application process and developing measurable goals for hiring people with disabilities, were implemented by less than 30% of respondents.
- Federal contractors were more likely than other companies to implement inclusive practices, but these practices are not universal. A set of 2013 changes to the Rehabilitation Act required federal contractors to take affirmative action to hire people with disabilities and to collect data to monitor the effectiveness of outreach and recruitment efforts. Despite this, more than half of federal contractors reported that less than 5 percent of their workforces consisted of people with disabilities.
- Companies had more policies to retain than hire people with disabilities, with 82.9% offering flexible workplace programs and/or a process to disclose a disability voluntarily and confidentially. Only 28.6% articulated measurable goals for retaining or advancing people with disabilities.
- Continued research on demand-side factors is valuable for efforts to increase the employment of people with disabilities. Given the role played by employer attitudes, more research is needed on whether educational interventions designed to change workplace attitudes are effective and produce long-term positive changes in attitudes. Workplace educational interventions can include information, contact, and training. The interventions should be targeted to coworkers and supervisors, both of whom play a key role in a receptive work environment. The implementation of such interventions would hopefully lead to the increased integration of people with disabilities in the workplace and a narrowing of the employment gaps with people without disabilities.
Please see the Research Gaps page for additional research ideas to consider for your evaluation projects.
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) sponsors independent evaluations and research, primarily conducted by external, third-party contractors in accordance with the Department of Labor Evaluation Policy. CEO’s research development process includes extensive technical review at the design, data collection and analysis stage, including: external contractor review and OMB review and approval of data collection methods and instruments per the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), Institutional Review Board (IRB) review to ensure studies adhere to the highest ethical standards, review by academic peers (e.g., Technical Working Groups), and inputs from relevant DOL agency and program officials and CEO technical staff. Final reports undergo an additional independent expert technical review and a review for Section 508 compliance prior to publication. The resulting reports represent findings from this independent research and do not represent DOL positions or policies.