Driven by ambitious and strong national policy strategies, much has changed for the better over recent years in the Irish system of benefits and services for persons with disabilities. Unfortunately, however, these improvements in policies have not yet produced the desired results. Ireland still has one of the largest disability employment gaps within the EU and the OECD. The employment rate of persons with disabilities in Ireland is about half the rate for persons without disabilities, with a widening gap in recent years.

Employer engagement is critically important to ensure that good policies yield good outcomes. The Irish Government has identified the provision of support for employers, to recruit and retain persons with disabilities and to facilitate return to work after the onset of a disability, as a key strategic priority in their efforts, as reflected in the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for Persons with Disabilities 2015-24. However, employer engagement, employer outreach and employer incentives remain inadequate in Ireland, holding back the necessary improvement in the employment rates of persons with disabilities.

This OECD report provides policy makers in Ireland with a diagnosis of key trends and untapped opportunities with regard to engaging employers in improving labour market outcomes for persons with disabilities. The report examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ireland’s economy and discusses potential repercussions on the labour market integration for persons with disabilities. It also highlights the critical role of employers in keeping persons with disabilities in quality employment and of public employment services in engaging employers in efforts to get persons with disabilities into work.

The preparation of the report involved a number of steps that contributed to shaping its conclusions:

  • A series of meetings with key stakeholders and institutions on the situation and challenges in Ireland; notably with various government departments, main policy delivery institutions (such as Intreo and SOLAS), social partners, and regional authorities and actors, especially in Cork.

  • A national virtual workshop with policy makers from different departments and institutions to receive feedback on the draft findings and policy conclusions.

  • A series of meetings with a team at the National Disability Authority to test ideas and discuss the focus and the key elements of the project.

  • A consultation meeting with the disability sector, organised by the National Disability Authority, with a focus on possible reforms affecting the lives of persons with disabilities.

  • A peer-learning event with the Austrian Public Employment Service and Irish policy makers, as Austria and its employment service was identified as a relevant benchmark for Ireland to follow, when extending the role of its own employment service.

  • A survey of employers, which was delivered with the help of Chambers Ireland and IBEC, to explore the views and needs of employers.

All participants in these events are warmly thanked for their invaluable insights and advice.

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