Favoring the inclusion of people with disabilities through employment
The central topic of the socially-responsible conference initiated by Handicap International held on November 21 in Lyon was “Employment: a factor in the integration of people with disabilities?” Several speakers were invited to respond to this question, among them Oliver Faust.
The unemployment rate of people with disabilities is higher than that of people without disabilities. How does a company go about implementing a policy on disabilities?
To be honest, it is never an easy process because the idea of disability and the legal framework differs from one country to the next. Which makes it difficult to create a global policy on disabilities. The key aspect remains the company's real-life determination to make change happen. While diversity is a reality, inclusion is a choice!
At Groupe Renault, we rely on our CSR policy, Mobilize, which addresses inclusion through its “diversity” component, which in turn covers disabilities. In 1995, Groupe Renault was one of the first companies to sign an agreement for the professional integration of people with disabilities in France. Today, the company is pursuing its actions and each country is contributing to the initiative. For example, in Turkey, where the law on disabilities has become more stringent, the Bursa plant carried out a study. The findings showed that people with disabilities were poorer than the national average and extremely active in the social networks. So the plant chose this platform for communicating with them. To encourage them to work at an industrial site, the plant offered to pay their rent during their trial period. The initiative has proved an enormous success and earned the site a number of awards.
At the Disabled Employment Symposium organized in May 2018 in Ankara in collaboration with the Turkish Employment Ministry, Renault Turkey won the prize in the category entitled “Company employing people with disabilities as part of a health and safety policy”. The result: in three years, the Bursa plant achieved the threshold required by law. We have also formed a partnership with Handicap International and now benefit from its expertise worldwide. The organization will soon be helping Renault Morocco and Renault Algeria to carry out an assessment with a view to introducing a policy on disabilities.
Can you tell us more about the other initiatives being rolled out?
Contrary to what is generally thought, 80% of disabilities are invisible*. And so we lead a broad range of initiatives. For example, at plants, work stations can be adapted for certain employees. To avoid the carrying of heavy loads, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are used to deliver all the parts required by an employee directly to the assembly line.
Another example is the exoskeleton (include exoskeleton photo), a portable mechanical structure that reduces the physical efforts of operators. The aim of these initiatives is to reduce the physicality of work tasks and the attendant back or joint problems. In the tertiary sector, we provide several services, including collaborative tools, video subtitling, screen displays, and sign language at our conferences. In addition, teleworking enables employees to adapt their work time. All these initiatives – and many more – benefit all employees, both with and without disabilities.
How are you raising staff awareness of disabilities?
We work on a day-to-day basis to change the way people see disabilities at the company and in the wider world. At the group, we have the handi@renault collaborative network, which now has some 1,400 members, both with and without disabilities. The network promotes staff dialogue, reviews the latest news on disabilities, and fosters the sharing of best practices.
We also regularly organize conferences on various forms of disabilities. For example, we have organized special sessions where people can learn to read braille. Another way of raising awareness is through sport, a perfect forum for talking about surpassing oneself. We have been a partner of the French parasport federation, FFH, for 20 years. The FFH supports Groupe Renault in its training and awareness-raising initiatives.
Have you rolled out an original initiative at your own department?
Yes. We invited an employee who has been deaf from birth and who grew up in a family of deaf people to speak at our CSR conference. He started his presentation in sign language, a way of engaging the attendants and illustrating a disability. He then went on to talk about his life and how sign language helped to put an end to his isolation. Today he works at Engineering and also leads training sessions. Far from being an obstacle, his disability is an asset for his team and has led his co-workers to change their behavior. Each one has learned to speak one after the other, which has enhanced mutual listening.