26 September 2019 • Martijn Tamboer
Participation staff member HRM great success
Danielle Spin has been working as a participation staff member at the HRM department at THUAS since April this year. Her manager Patrick Kemble is very pleased with her. “Everyone believes in being inclusive. But as a university of applied sciences we don’t meet the required quota for hiring people through the Participation Act. This is a missed opportunity.”
Last year Patrick encountered a challenge in filling an HRM service position and didn’t have the required funding to expand his staff through the regular budgetary avenues. “I was looking for a creative way to hire more helping hands. Danielle, who has an HRM background, was the perfect fit.”
Obstacles along the way
Joke Dijk is the participation advisor, which means she is responsible for increasing participation of people who have an illness or disability that hinders their access to the labour market. “Supervisors see many obstacles along the way. We are not only talking about financial hurdles, but also questions like: how will we supervise the person, are people sufficiently motivated and will this work in my team?” It’s very clear to Patrick that there is a stigma attached to this topic. “There is a certain fear of hiring participation staff members. For some reason people have the idea that this group of people has little capability, requires a lot of support or doesn’t actually want to work at all.”
Joke has been advising, recruiting and implementing selection procedures for people who need to find employment as part of the Jobs Agreement since 2015. First for the Employee Service Point, the City of The Hague and since January of 2019 at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. The Jobs Agreement is a national agreement between the government and social partners to assist people with an occupational disability to find regular work. “The image of someone in a wheelchair or with a developmental disability is quite persistent. I have only once assisted someone in a wheelchair. The target group of the Jobs Agreement is very diverse, ranging from uneducated to highly educated candidates. Everyone has their own needs in terms of support or adaptations required for a position.
Until she became pregnant, Danielle worked full-time as a supervisor in her professional field. “Nine months after my pregnancy I still had some vague medical symptoms. Finally I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease. I ended up needing social assistance for five years. Last year, the Dutch Employment Insurance Agency (UWV) allowed me to work a maximum of twenty hours, enabling me to return to the labour market.” Danielle still remembers the day of her job interview. “The elevator doors opened and I felt this great positive energy wash over me. The department has a friendly atmosphere with truly engaged colleagues.” The day before her job interview Danielle rehearsed taking public transportation to the location of the interview. “That shows their motivation.”, explains Patrick, “People who have been removed from the labour market are highly motivated. Go-getters who have endured a lot and who despite their setbacks will do anything to be active in society.”
The candidate’s strengths
“We always look at the candidate’s strengths. What someone can and cannot do”, explains Joke. Participation staff members are classified according to their abilities, instead of the function they hold. The wage subsidy, in which part of the reduced productivity is compensated for by the municipality or the UWV, and the wage benefit, a maximum tax refund of 2000 euro a year, offer financial incentives. “It sounds like a complicated process”, states Joke. “But managers don’t need to worry about a thing, HRM takes care of all the financial requirements.” To encourage employers to hire even more staff under the Participation Act, the UWV or the municipality offer a test placement during which a candidate can work one to two months without any cost, while also being covered under a no-risk policy in case of illness.
There is also plenty of support. In addition to the municipality or UWV providing a job coach, colleagues can also take the so-called ‘Harrie training’ offered by CNV Jongeren. This training teaches staff members how to support someone on a daily basis. The Dutch acronym Harrie stands for Helpful, Alert, Quiet, Realistic, Instructive and Honest. “The great thing is that you learn from each other”, explains Patrick. For example, Danielle finds it difficult to switch quickly between tasks. This is a regular occurrence at her department. Marianne helps her to define her priorities, while also learning a lot about the support process.” Soon there will be another e-learning opportunity with more information on how to increase support for this target group.
Patrick sees the improved team spirit as one of the biggest benefits of hiring a participation staff member. “You know that as a department you are contributing to a better society. It greatly enriches your outlook on life. You gain more respect for people who don’t take anything for granted. I see it as my social duty to set a good example at HRM. We have 25,000 students here from all walks of life. Our support services and lecturers should reflect our student population. Our goal is to hire a minimum number of participation staff members. I can give some wonderful examples of successful placements within our organisation. But I would like to say the following to all managers at THUAS: ‘Guys, we aren’t there yet. We stand right in the middle of society. Open yourself up to all of its benefits and come to us for more information!”
For more information about the Jobs agreement and hiring participation staff members, please contact Joke Dijk, participation advisor: email@example.com, 06 102 78 097.