Topical Seminar 5

Topical Seminar 5:
Contributing to the work integration of disabled people through social acceptance, disclosure and work accommodations.

Session chair(s): Patrizia Villotti

Schedule Details

Tuesday September 30
13:45 - 15:15 Afternoon Concurrent Sessions (T O13 - T O24 and Seminar 5)
Topic: Vulnerable workers
Room C

Seminar Objectives

Having a disability can disadvantage individuals in securing employment, career advancement, and job tenure. Dealing with disability in the workforce is becoming a major concern, as an important percentage of the world’s population has a disability and the current economic climate is making it harder for people with disabilities to obtain and sustain employment. A large number of factors and reasons can be cited to explain the unemployed status and difficulties in job retention experienced by people with disabilities, but according to the recent literature the biggest barrier remains their limited access to a supportive and non-discriminatory workplace.

In this symposium we would like to focus on factors that support people with disabilities, and in particular people with mental health issues, to work. In particular, we have four presentations and we plan to provide each presenter 15 minutes, plus 5 minutes for questions and comments from the audience. We will thus have an additional 10 minutes at the end of the panel for general comments, questions and conclusion remarks.

The specific topics of this seminar proposal are intrinsically interrelated in the work integration process of disabled people: social acceptance, disclosure and the implementation of work accommodations. In particular, there is consensus in the literature that one of the key barriers to employment of persons with disabilities is social stigma in the workplace and associated discrimination. An important reason why employees with disabilities often fail to stay in regular organizations for sustained periods is a lack of social acceptance. This is the topic of the first presentation of this panel. Alongside with the importance of being accepted, it is known that people with a disability requires special accommodations in the workplace. For people with a mental disability, this is related to the disclosure of the mental disorder in the workplace, and it is the topic of the second presentation. The third presentation is about a new measure to describe work accommodations and natural support available in the workplace for people with mental disorders, and which of them are significantly related to job tenure for participants enrolled in supported employment services. The last presentation is related to a cross-national investigation of work accommodations for individuals with mental illness employed in social businesses raised in three different countries: Italy, Canada and Australia.

Presentation 1: Acceptance of people with disabilities at work

Presented by: Katharina Vornholt

Authors

Vornholt K1, Uitdewilligen S1, Nijhuis FJN1

  1. Maastricht University Dept. Work and Social Psychology Maastricht, The Netherlands

Abstract

Background

More than 14% of the European population of working age experiences a moderate to severe disability and only 44% of this group is employed. Besides economical disadvantages, unemployment also has negative social and psychological consequences. As a result, people with disabilities are among the poorest and most socially isolated in our society. Although work supports integration and reduces poverty, many people with disabilities who are employed, indicate that they feel stigmatized and insufficiently included at work. An important reason why employees with disabilities often fail to stay in regular organizations for sustained periods is a lack of social acceptance. We therefore consider the concept of acceptance of people with disabilities to play a pivotal role in a nomological network of antecedents and consequences of successful integration of people with disabilities in regular work environments. This paper describes the development of a measure designed to assess the level of acceptance of people with disabilities within a group of colleagues.

Methods

Items were generated based on a theoretical framework of acceptance. Two versions of the measure were developed, containing a version for employees with disabilities (1) and a second version for their colleagues (2). After initial item reduction 14 items remained for questionnaire (1) and 20 items for (2). Up until today, the questionnaire was administered to 31 teams (48 people with disabilities and 60 colleagues) of various German and Dutch companies.

Results

Data collection and analysis are still ongoing. The preliminary results suggest that acceptance is a two-dimensional construct comprising 1) work related acceptance and 2) general social acceptance. These dimensions accounted for 56% of the variance. Validity was supported by significant correlations with measures of prosocial team values, cohesion, psychological safety, attitudes, and affective organizational commitment.

Conclusions

The concept acceptance of people with disabilities at work has never been clearly defined and methodically investigated. The present study is a first step towards the development of a robust measure of acceptance and the identification of factors contributing to the acceptance of employees with disabilities.

Presentation 2: Employee decision-making about disclosure of a mental disorder at work

Presented by: Kate Toth

Authors

Toth K1

  1. Fanshawe College, Lawrence Kinlin School of Business

Abstract

Background

In Canada, legislation exists to assist employees with a mental disorder in successfully performing their roles and protect them against discrimination. However, fear of stigma may lead employees to choose not to disclose the mental disorder, limiting help-seeking through accommodation. Decision-making about disclosure at work is thus a complex process, as both positive (e.g., work accommodation) and negative (e.g., stigma) outcomes may ensue. Research suggests that various factors are considered in making decisions related to disclosure of concealable stigmatizing attributes, yet limited literature explores such decision-making in the context of mental disorder and work.

Methods

The study used grounded theory methods to develop a theory of disclosure decision-making. Interviews were conducted with 13 employees of a post-secondary educational institution in Canada. Data were analyzed according to grounded theory methods through processes of open, selective, and theoretical coding.

Results

Employees began from a default position of nondisclosure attributable to fear of being stigmatized in the workplace. To move from the default position, employees needed a reason to disclose. The decision-making process can best be described as a risk-benefit analysis. While almost all disclosure decisions were made spontaneously, participants clearly described a process of reasoning to make the decision, one in which data may have been gathered over a significant period of time. However, due to the changing nature of risks as events unfold, ultimately the decision is made in the moment before disclosure. Participants then returned to the default position of nondisclosure until another triggering incident suggested there might be a reason to disclose.

Conclusions

Understanding how employees make decisions about disclosure in the workplace informs organizational policies, practices, and programs to enhance inclusivity. The findings suggest possible intervention strategies related to education, policy, and culture for reducing stigma of mental disorders in the workplace. As organizations become more inclusive and supportive of employees, we can expect job tenure to increase, leading to enhanced recovery for individuals, and increased productivity and reduced disability claims costs for organizations.

Presentation 3: Work accommodations and natural supports for helping people with severe mental disorders in supported employment programs maintain their employment

Presented by: Marc Corbière

Authors

Corbière M1, Villotti P2, Lecomte T3, Bond G4, Lesage A5, Goldner EM6

  1. Center for Action in Work Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation, and School of Rehabilitation, University of Sherbrooke, Canada
  2. Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science, University of Trento, Italy
  3. Fernand-Seguin Research Center Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital, and Department of Psychology, University of Montreal, Canada
  4. Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, Lebanon, NH
  5. Fernand-Seguin Research Center Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital, and Department of Psychiatry, University of Montreal, Canada
  6. Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health & Addiction, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Abstract

Background

Job tenure for people with severe mental disorders, even for those enrolled in supported employment programs, is typically brief. Few studies to date have investigated the relationship between accommodations and natural supports available in the workplace, and job tenure for this population. The main objectives of this study were to develop a new measure to describe work accommodations and natural supports available in the workplace and to determine which of them are significantly related to job tenure for participants enrolled in supported employment services.

Methods

A total of 124 people with a severe mental disorder enrolled in supported employment programs and who obtained only one competitive employment at the 9-month follow-up answered the Work Accommodation and Natural Support Scale (WANSS). They also provided information regarding their disclosure (or non-) of mental disorders in the workplace and the length of their job tenure.

Results

Confirmatory Factor Analysis conducted on the WANSS showed 40 items distributed on six dimensions (e.g., Schedule flexibility). Correlation results showed that disclosure is significantly related to the number of work accommodations and natural supports available in the workplace. Survival analyses indicated that one WANSS dimension was more salient in predicting job tenure: Informational, instrument and appraisal support (from co-workers and the supervisor).

Conclusions

Work accommodations and natural supports in the workplace offered by co-workers and the supervisor are essential to help people with a severe mental disorder maintain competitive employment; the WANSS is a valid and useful tool to assess these concepts that employment specialists could use in their practice.

Presentation 4: Workplace adjustments and natural support for people with mental disorders employed in social businesses: an international comparison

Presented by: Patrizia Villotti

Authors

Villotti P1, Corbière M2, Fossey E3, Fraccaroli F1, Lecomte T4, Harvey C3

  1. Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science, University of Trento, Italy
  2. Center for Action in Work Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation, and School of Rehabilitation, University of Sherbrooke, Canada
  3. Psychosocial Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Australia
  4. Fernand-Seguin Research CenterLouis-H. Lafontaine Hospital, and Department of Psychology, University of Montreal, Canada

Abstract

Background

The implementation of work adjustments has been recognized as being a key factor related to success in employment for workers with disabilities (American with Disabilities Act of 1990). Yet, little is known about the types of work adjustments and natural support that may be useful for people experiencing disabling mental illness (MacDonald Wilson, Rogers, Massaro, Lyass & Crean, 2002). With the aim to increase the general knowledge on work accommodations for mentally disabled people, we conducted an exploratory, descriptive and cross-national investigation of work adjustments for individuals with mental illness employed in social businesses raised in three different countries: Italy, Canada and Australia.

Methods

Study findings are drawn from survey responses (WANSS, Corbière and Ptasinski, 2004) of a convenient sample of 90 persons with self-reported psychiatric disabilities who are employed in Social Businesses located in Italy (N=30), Canada (N=30) and Australia (N=30). Italian, Canadian and Australian samples were matched on age, gender, level of education and diagnosis.

Results

Descriptive analyses showed that social business is a working context characterized by the provision of a high number of work adjustments and natural support. Results from One-way ANOVAs showed a statistical differences among Countries for the “Supervisor and co-workers support” [F(2,87)=5.38, p=.006] and “Training” [F(2,87)=5.17, p=.008] categories of the WANSS. Post hoc comparison using the Tukey HSD test indicated that the mean score for Italy (M=7.80, SD=2.26) at the “Supervisor and co-workers support” category was significantly different than the mean score of Canada (M=9.34, SD=2.06) and Australia (M=9.31, SD=1.89), while the mean score for Canada (M=4.02, SD=2.07) at the “Training” category was significantly different from the mean score of Australia (M=5.75, SD=2.32). No main effect of group emerged for the other scale categories and for the total number of work adjustments provided. Similarities and differences among Countries will be discussed.

Conclusions

Overall, this study advance our knowledge about the implementation of work adjustments and natural support in social businesses and can help us to develop the most efficient framework for the integration process of people with mental disorders.