Inclusive employment

There are many advantages of opening your practice to inclusive employment.

Practice Management

It can be difficult finding employees – but chances are you might not have considered all employment options.

If you are looking for a hard worker, who can take care of all the small but essential tasks that are getting on top of your practice staff, employing a person who has an intellectual disability might be the perfect fit.

Many advantages

Nia Parker, Chair of Down Syndrome WA, says there are many advantages of inclusive employment for businesses such as dental practices.

“I think there is a financial benefit in having someone with an intellectual disability to do the lower-level tasks that need to be done,” she says. “This way a business is not paying someone who perhaps is at a higher rate of pay or is more qualified to do a task someone else could do.

“You are not creating work for them; they are doing essential, meaningful tasks that someone in that practice needs to do,” she explains. “Someone needs to tidy up the reception area, someone needs to make up the oral hygiene packs, tidy the staff room, make sure the cupboards are fully stocked, step in to empty out the sterilising unit…there are a whole lot of small jobs that need doing.

“It can often be difficult to attract people who only want to work say two four-hour shifts in a week,” she adds. “However, that is perfect for someone who has Down Syndrome because that may be all they are looking for and it means you are filling a need that you might not otherwise be able to fill.”

Making a difference

Nia points out there is the opportunity to be a good corporate citizen by giving an opportunity to someone with an intellectual disability. “You get to give someone meaningful employment that they might not otherwise get,” she says.

Nia’s daughter Rachel has been employed by Rockingham Dental Centre for the last three years, and Nia says she personally knows of three families who have moved specifically to Rockingham Dental Centre because the practice has chosen to employ someone with a disability. “(The attitude of the families) was that the practice is obviously a caring environment, so it was somewhere they wanted to be as a patient,” Nia says. “From a business point of view, you can attract clients because it is a very demonstrable way of showing that you are a caring environment and that is what people look for in a dental professional.”

Benefits for the employees

Rachel works for a few hours, two days a week at Rockingham Dental Centre. “I like the team; they are great to work with,” Rachel says. “My bosses are great – they are funny, and I am always included.

“When I first started, I had to do the hygiene packs and that was the only thing I had to do, but I then moved onto other jobs. I like being busy and I like being efficient.”

Nia adds the opportunity to have meaningful employment, doing something that is necessary and feeling needed is important for everyone. “It means they earn money of their own,” she explains. “Rachel, for example, colours her hair and she can go to the hairdresser every two months to get a colour, go buy some shoes that take her fancy – it allows her to buy the extras, the luxuries with her own money.”

A practice’s experience

“We wholeheartedly encourage other dental practices to explore employment options with DSWA,” says Dr Hari Menon from Rockingham Dental Centre. “Rachel brings to the practice a unique and refreshing perspective to our team that has been truly invaluable. Her commitment to her work and colleagues has been remarkable and has brought even more inclusivity and diversity to our workplace. “Rachel's achievements in and out of the workplace, remind us that individuals with diverse abilities are fully capable of excelling in professional settings when given the right support and opportunities. She serves as a testament to the potential for success that can be unlocked when we provide inclusive employment opportunities. Our experience with Rachel has been both rewarding and enlightening. “We are grateful to be able to offer a more inclusive and accepting work environment while tapping into the talents and abilities of individuals like Rachel.”

Things for a dental practice to consider

To practice owners or managers who are thinking about contacting Down Syndrome WA about employment options, Nia advises having the conversation – there is information and support available for practices wanting to look into inclusive employment.

“We have an employment coordinator at DSWA, so a practice owner can reach out and say they are thinking of possibly employing someone. Someone from DSWA would come out and have a chat about what some of the tasks might be and identify the right person for that. Once someone is hired, a mentor will be organised to accompany the employee until they are confident with their tasks."

“You train any new person that comes into your workplace but normally you train them and let them get on with their job. What happens here is you train the young person and the mentor and then the mentor would do the repetitive teaching, working side-by-side until that person is capable and confident to do that work independently."

“You are not using a staff member to do the repetitive learning. The extra help the new employee needs will be provided by an outside person, and this mentor will be with them for as long as they need. There is no cost to the dental practice for the mentor.”

She adds working at a dental practice is very suitable for someone with Down Syndrome, because as a generalisation they are good with small repetitive tasks and fit well into a social environment.

“The team at the practice where Rachel works like having her there – they say she is so much fun to have around,” Nia says. “Also studies show that people with disabilities have lower rates of absenteeism and higher rates of loyalty to their employer.”

To find out about employing a person with Down Syndrome at your practice, please contact the Down Syndrome WA Employment Coordinator at

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