Employers’ Perspectives on Accommodating and Retaining Employees with Newly Acquired Disabilities: An Exploratory Study

Publisher: Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, vol. 28, issue 4, edited by Yonatan Ben-Shalom and Jody Schimmel Hyde
Dec 01, 2018
Alix Gould-Werth, Katherine Morrison, and Yonatan Ben-Shalom
Timely and appropriate accommodations can help employees with disabilities stay at work instead of exiting the labor force. Employers play a critical role in connecting such workers with the accommodations they need. In an effort to understand the key factors influencing employers’ efforts to support and accommodate workers with newly acquired disabilities, we conducted semi-structured interviews with human resources (HR) professionals at 14 organizations in Arkansas. The interviews yielded detailed information on 50 cases in which an employee developed or disclosed a disability, which we analyzed to identify key factors that affect accommodation and retention. The factors we identified include: employers’ access to resources; the ease (or difficulty) of communication between the affected worker and other stakeholders; and the characteristics of the employee, including tenure, performance, roles and duties at work, and health condition. Consistent with prior literature, employers with greater access to resources and better ability to communicate generally made more of an effort to accommodate and retain employees with disabilities. However, employers in the study did not deploy these resources and processes consistently when making decisions about whether and how to provide accommodations to workers with disabilities; employee-level characteristics affected their actions.