Developing long-term employment opportunities for those with disabilities

All too often, people with disabilities face barriers to full-time employment — even though many possess the right skills. In 2020, about 18% of people with disabilities were employed, compared to roughly 62% of those employed, without a disability.

Those with disabilities may also be more likely to be underemployed than people without — meaning, as an employee, their skills are not fully utilized, or the job doesn’t completely meet their needs. 

In an effort to create more employment opportunities for this workforce, the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee has begun a rolling plan to hire almost 150 people with disabilities, where they can have the resources they need to work from home. These employees help support UnitedHealthcare Community & State dual-plan members, who often have their own complex care needs. This in turn helps them empathize on a deeper level and lead with compassion.

The program builds off a previous effort with the Community Plan of Tennessee, which created internship opportunities for this community within the company. Now, the focus has shifted to full-time employment with full training, support and accommodations for remote work.

As transportation is often a massive barrier to full-time employment for people with disabilities, the work-from-home component has been a key part of the strategy. A job that would normally take place in a call center can be much easier to access when it’s done from home.

The program is supported by a multitude of state partners, including the Tennessee Department of Labor and Vocational Rehabilitation to help identify candidates.

“The collaboration with all groups has been phenomenal,” said David Quick, director of operations for complex care at UnitedHealthcare. “We are taking detailed notes to ensure this will be a process we can replicate in other areas.”

As the program has gotten off the ground, early results have been encouraging in giving people with disabilities the place to build job skills and continue to grow their resume for future opportunities.

“We’ve gotten some great feedback from the candidates,” David said. “Employers can be hesitant so it can be hard for someone with a disability to get in the door. Because we open that door wide, they’re truly appreciative. And when you give them that opportunity, they’re some of our best employees.”

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