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New York State College of Ceramics ​hello everybody and as if Marion said my name is Vanessa Bailey and I'm the access officer-in-charge Eskom also a member of the HR department there and firstly I just wanted to thank the National Disability Authority for their invitation to be here today and I'm delighted to be able to share some of the policies and experiences that we have with you all I start just with a very brief overview of chagas and who would who we are and what it is we do and talk you through maybe some of the policies that we have to try and encourage the retention of staff who acquired disabilities and then I'll finish up just with a case study and which highlights how those policies are put into place so firstly chagas we're the agriculture and food development authority in Ireland were the leading public sector organisation and undertaking research advisory and education services in the agriculture and food sector in in the country and a couple of years ago we introduced a change programme and that has radically as was rationalized and reorganize the structure of the organization we've reduced our senior management team from six down to three and were organized into three integrated directorates our research and knowledge transfer and our operations directorate are our operations directorate is is like our head office functions or HR IT finance you know those type of functions like many other public sector organisations our staff numbers have reduced significantly in the last few years we currently have just over 1,100 staff and which represents a reduction of almost 400 in the last three to four years as well as a reduction in staff we've reduced the number of locations that we operate out of we are and based all over the Republic and we've reduced down from 96 to 295 different offices and our last staff survey showed that and ninety-three percent of our staff had a disability the next slide here shows you to some of the policies that we have in place to retain staff who acquire a disability and these policies have been done enhanced over time and I suppose show how committed we are to developing measures to encourage the recruitment and retention of people who acquire a disability during the course of their employment our equal opportunities policy sets out a code of practice in the area of recruitment and selection advertising you know interviews and staff development and working arrangements and it states that no staff member our potential staff member will be treated less favourably on any of the nine grounds set out in the employment equality acts our disability policy which we put in place in 2008 is a clear statement to staff customers and clients who have a disability it provides guidance in relation to recruitment retention training development and promotion it's it's based on four key principles and these are one and two try and encourage our foster a culture which focuses on people's abilities rather than irrelevant disabilities and to ensure that our recruitment practices seek the inclusion of people who have a disability to provide facilitation for those people and also to make our services and our information more accessible through and designing an accessible environment our dignity at work policy affirms the right of staff to be treated with dignity and respect it's very much a proactive policy which focuses on prevention of instances of bullying and harassment as part of this policy what we have done is trained a number of staff members throughout the organization to act as designated contact persons I suppose maybe like a staff advocate for want of a better word and and the purpose for these people is to provide support and assistance to anybody who wishes to make a claim under that policy or make a complaint under that policy our sick leave policy and you know I suppose it's inevitable that from time to time you know people will become sick and we have an occupational health service in place to identify any issues which might affect a person in the workplace and also to identify any special requirements that it person might need and you know different supports that can be put in place since we've introduced this occupation health service we found that are the the length of time that a person is either on sick leave has reduced significantly also any new recruits that we bring into the organization undergo a preemployment medical with the providers of the service and that allows for an early identification of any special requirements our accommodations or supports they might need our managers would play you know a very important role in supporting an employee while they are absent from work they're very much the point of contact with that employee while they are absent and and we also have two dedicated stage our staff members are HR advisers who work closely with the managers and the employee when they're while they're absent from work daily A's with the occupational health specialists and when the person is fit to return to work the individual themselves the manager the

occupation has specialists and rho advisors will agree return to work action plan and this plan can you know it varies from person to person because obviously everybody's individual circumstances are different it may involve a change in certain duties it might involved a complete change of job altogether and in some cases people will return to work on a phased basis and also those different supports and assistive technologies and training that that might be required the other point is was in terms of HR advisors is that they will maintain contact after the person has returned to work just to review the progress and of their reintegration back into the organization and to see if the supports that are in place are appropriate or if they need to change over time all of these policies are documented they're available in our staff handbook and on our website and all our managers have an and staff have been trained in relation to the operation of these policies the next slide shows some of the programs and initiatives that we have in place in addition to the policies have just spoken about we have an Employee Assistance Program it's provided externally to the organization and it's a confidential service which provides specialist support in a number of different areas and you know work-life balance family matters legal matters finance it's provided to staff and their family members and through which I suppose people can avail of either face-to-face counselling telephone consultations there's also a website which has a huge amount of information the reason we we provide this and service is that I suppose we acknowledge very much that there are pressures on staff and their families and it's not always appropriate that internal resources would you know which would deal with those of those pressures in addition to our Employee Assistance Program we have an employee wellbeing program and we've offered some information seminars on different topics from managing stress to positive parenting skills you know they're just an example of some of the seminars and as well as that we have a website which we maintained within our HR department and which has an awful lot of information in relation to mental and physical health and well-being topics such as lifestyle you know work-life balance both those sort of things with purpose for this is to provide an environment where staff are am supported and motivated and and healthy and fulfilled we have a number of further initiatives and which we're working on at the moment and in the area of employee well-being and this is through our people leadership and change strategy which Marian referred to earlier it's art it's our latest HR strategy so we're looking forward to being able to introduce some more initiatives there and through our staff training program specific training or developmental needs are identified and addressed and in particular any special needs or requirements that a staff member might have are prioritized for funding through this this stuff Air Training Fund and coaching and mentoring or just an example of some of the recent initiatives that we've introduced and this year is well we participated in the I ases Job Shadow initiative and had a number of placements in various different roles across the organisation I suppose you know it's fair to say that it's one thing to have your policies in place and have them documented but more importantly I think is how those policies are actually operated on how they're put into practice so what I'd like to do now is just take you through a case study which shows how we have put those policies in place in chagas this particular case study centers around an employee called Anthony who threw a genetic disease lost his sight he became blind in 2008 and he also has am hearing loss he was originally employed as a reps advisor and which would be an advisor who would provide advice on different farming matters to our clients originally when he started working he would have provided this service to his clients through office consultations phone consultations a large proportion of his time would have been spent out on site on the farms with with the clients and it would have also involved a lot of computer work office work and you know dealing with various different applications and systems and that side of things in late 2008 Anthony became ill and was out sick for about five to six months and it was during that time that he unfortunately lost his sight he during the time when he was out sick support team was put together which comprised of Anthony's manager and staff member from hey char and also from our staff training unit and this team worked with Anthony and the occupational health specialists to agree a return to work action plan he came back into work in January 2009 and and you know as part of his return to work action plan his role was examined it was obvious I suppose that there was some of the duties he wouldn't be able to undertake anymore and so his role was revised and very much important to you know that support team and to Anthony himself in revising his role was to make sure that any new role focused on the abilities that he had and and also focused on different technologies that are available and in particular Anthony's aspirations for his future career with the organization and as well as that it was important to make sure that the role was varied and you know provided enough challenge to Anthony so that he would continue to be stimulated and motivated in his work and a national call center was established through which anthony provides advice to to farmers on various different topics he writes a weekly article in relation to farmer matters for his local newspaper and he also acts as a special resource advisor to his manager and two other advisors in the unit in which he works he returned to work initially on a phased basis and was just to ease him back into the workplace and has bent up over time into returning on a full-time basis the National Cancer for the blind in Ireland undertook technology technology assessment and provided advice in relation to different and technologies that were

available to help Anthony in his new role and also provided training to Anthony himself and to the local admin support who would be helping Anthony on a day-to-day basis in his work you know it's fair to say that that reintegrating back into the workplace is difficult and particularly following a long absence and as well at a time when the individual themselves is trying to come to terms with a newly acquired disability Anthony would very much praise the support he received from his manager and his colleagues at the time that he returned to work and very much Vance's this support made the reintegration process a lot less stressful and an easier for him he was keen as well to ensure that you know the colleagues that he worked with and even the colleagues based in the centre where he works that wouldn't necessarily deal with him on a day-to-day basis that they were aware of his disability and aware of the impact that that had on him and and also of the different supports that that they could have you know provide to help him how they could do that and the nature of the illness that Anthony has means that his needs are changing and I'm HR and his manager would week together with Anthony would review these and an ongoing basis to make sure that the supports that are in place are appropriate and that they're meeting his needs and over time his hearing is is deteriorating and so this year we got some specialist hearing equipment which helps him in group and meetings conferences that type of thing which is I'm speaking to Anthony the other day and he's he's in has found it a great help he's made excellent progress since he has returned to work and he's really enjoying his role you know it's it's not the role he was originally employed to do but it's nonetheless very important and you know he's making a great contribution to the organization his manager in particular speaks very highly of him and particularly off his positive attitude that he has and this I suppose was an obvious when he warned chagas Innovation Award last year and this is a photograph of Anthony together with the tea shock and when he launched of his eighties at poster and it's a poster in relation to farm safety and it was for this poster that Anthony won the Innovation Award this poster has been circulated to our clients to farmers you know available in various different coops and Martin that and this really is aimed at heightening awareness for farmers in relation to different farm safety matters and the next slide I've just listed some of the different organizations which targets have worked with over the years in relation to and different disabilities and the staff that we have you know we very much acknowledge that we don't have all the expertise internally and we do need external help and the National Disability Authority have been particularly helpful in terms of our disability policy and the National Council for the blind and deaf here were especially helpful in Anthony's case in relation to different and technology assessments and training and that side of things made mark are the providers of our occupational health service and I've spoken a bit about the work that they do with us we've also engaged a number of different private companies and specialists for areas like confidence building and coaching that's just a name name a few I just finished off I suppose with some of the lessons that we have learned over the years and hopefully they might be of help to tab to some of the employers out here and you know I've spoke previously about Anthony and how he praised his managers and colleagues when he returned to work and you know the we can't underestimate how important they are in terms of making the reintegration process much smoother and also the support that they provide to individuals in terms of their day-to-day work as well as that you know having your policies in place is one thing and I can't reiterate this enough people need to know that your policies are there your staff your managers they need to know that you have these policies and they also need to be trained and need to know how to operate them that's been it been a huge thing for Chagas and you know when an individual returns to work with priests say that they might not necessarily and be able to do all the duties that they had previously done and what the key thing in terms of revising a person's role i feel is is too very much focus on the abilities that they have and that is one of the the four principles as i mentioned in terms of our disability policy every case is different there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach and every disability is different every disability affects individuals in different ways so your policies and your practices need to be flexible enough to account for that and finally I suppose just in terms of the external help you know what is out there so so i would encourage everybody to use it thank you very much you Dowling College, Oakdale.