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CSR lunch on inclusive hiring

On 23 April the ECCT's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) committee hosted a lunch on the topic "Inclusive hiring – the benefits of having handicapped employees". The committee invited Petersan Chien, Assistant Manager, Office of the Disabled, Department of Labor, Taipei City Government as the guest speaker. In his presentation, Chien gave an overview of legal requirements regarding the hiring of handicapped employees in Taiwan, how various difficulties have been overcome and some successful case studies.

Chien has been working for the Taipei City Government's Office of the Disabled for over 13 years. He has helped 1,000 people with a variety of disabilities secure full time positions. In addition, he has been instrumental in developing one of the most comprehensive structures for employment of the handicapped, fully utilizing government resources to help those who have the drive and desire to enter the work force.

Companies with more than 67 employees are required by law to hire at least one person with disabilities while two are required for companies with more than 200 employees, and, for larger companies, no fewer than 1% of the total number of employees. The ratio is much higher for government agencies.

Companies are liable to penalties if they do not comply, including having to pay fines and having their names published. According to Chien, over 20% of companies are not employing enough handicapped employees.

While many companies are initially reluctant to hire handicapped people, the majority of them (76% according to Chien), willingly hire more disabled people once they have adjusted their workplaces to cater to the special needs of handicapped employees.

Chien's office helps companies to adjust to these special needs in a number of ways. Arguably the most important way is by providing mentoring and on-the-job training to handicapped employees. For example, the office has a staff of 100 full time mentors who accompany disabled employees to work for up to six months in order to help them to adjust to their new jobs.

The office has 16 one-stop centers in Taipei that provide personalized vocational rehabilitation counseling services. If handicapped employees wish to change jobs or advance their careers, the office helps to provide skills training and find new employment opportunities. The office also holds workshops for other employees to educate them on the special needs of their new colleagues and help them to adjust. In addition, the office helps companies to find and install special equipment needed for various types of disabilities.

While companies need to purchase equipment, all the office's other services are provided free of charge. The Taipei City Government also provides cash rewards to companies who hire more handicapped employees than they are legally required to.

Chien went on to talk about a number of success stories of multinational and Taiwanese companies who have successfully employed and integrated handicapped employees in their workplaces.

A local semiconductor testing and packaging company found that the performance of hearing-impaired employees in certain jobs exceeded those of employees without disabilities. The local branch of a foreign bank in Taiwan hired visually impaired people to work as telemarketers. A local bank hired visually-impaired people to provide staff with massages. It turned out that this service was rated as the best staff benefit by the bank's employees. In another example, chefs at a local restaurant chain complained about having to clean bathrooms as part of their duties. The restaurant solved the problem by hiring handicapped employees as janitors.

Chien concluded that hiring handicapped employees is not just good for CSR. It gives disadvantaged people the opportunity to lead fulfilling and dignified lives. It is also not as difficult to do as the successful case studies have indicated. He therefore urged companies to do more than the legal requirement, hire more handicapped employees and make a real difference in their lives.