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Small Business Toolkit: Advantages and Benefits for Small Businesses

Explore the many advantages and benefits people with disabilities bring to the small business workforce. 

There are many advantages to including people with disabilities in your workforce, such as:

A Wider Talent Pool

Small businesses compete for workers to fill the historically high number of job openings. By hiring people with disabilities, small businesses can access an often-underutilized talent pool of skilled, resourceful, adaptable, and highly motivated candidates.

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97% of HR professionals said that employees with disabilities regularly perform the same or better than their peers without disabilities.

Source: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) member survey

A Competitive Edge

Employing people with disabilities will help small businesses stand out from their competition and connect to a strong and sizable customer base. Disabled people represent a large market segment in the U.S. By employing them, managers gain a better understanding of how to meet the needs of these valuable customers.

Increase Diversity

Disability is diversity. People with disabilities represent all racial and ethnic communities, genders, and places. Small businesses that hire people with disabilities increase diversity in their workplaces and, as a result, benefit from fresh perspectives, innovative thinking, and problem-solving skills.

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Employees who felt included and thought their company valued diversity were 80% more likely to say they worked for a high-performing organization.

Source: Deloitte study (PDF)

Expand Business Reach

Research from the Harvard Business Review finds that “Disabilities often confer unique talents that make people better at particular jobs.” This happens because employees with disabilities can use their lived experiences as a lens to improve products, enhance services, and increase efficiency. By hiring and promoting people with disabilities, small businesses build brand loyalty with disabled consumers and their families and friends.

Economic Benefits

Research shows that businesses that employ people with disabilities, on average, increase revenue by 28%, double their net income, and grow their profit margin by 30%. Studies also show that employees with disabilities stay at jobs longer, in turn reducing costs associated with recruiting, hiring, and training new employees.

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$15,000 is the average cost to replace an employee (per worker earning a median salary of $48,672).

Source: The Work Institute's 2020 Retention Report (PDF)

Financial Incentives

Beyond apparent cost savings, several financial incentives are available to small businesses that hire disabled employees.

Federal and State Tax Incentives: Typically, any private business that hires a new employee from a specific target group may be eligible for the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and various state supplements. You can learn more about the WOTC from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). People with disabilities can be a part of any of these target groups, including Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) referrals, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, and Qualified Veterans. You can work with a knowledgeable tax professional or your local American Job Center to learn about your eligibility for these incentives.

Businesses can claim up to a $2,400 credit under WOTC for each employee hired.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA): WIOA is federal legislation that provides funding and resources to support workforce development programs and services. Businesses can partner with workforce agencies receiving WIOA funding (PDF) to improve talent pipelines and promote disability inclusion. Learn more about these opportunities, including where to find candidates seeking employment through WIOA-funded organizations and tax incentives that may be available to employers who hire them.

Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAP): RAPs are structured training programs leading to long-term career pathways. They are regulated and overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor or state apprentice offices but are sponsored by individual employers or employer intermediaries (including but not limited to labor management partnerships) in a wide range of industries. Employers who sponsor RAPs may be eligible to receive certain financial supports and tax credits; tuition support may also be available to program candidates. Choose your state to learn more or read about the value of disability-inclusive apprenticeships for businesses of all sizes.

Federal Grants: Small businesses can apply for grants which will help them to apply for and secure federal contracts. These grants can provide financial support, incentives, resources, and partnerships to facilitate hiring people with disabilities.

Federal Contractors

The U.S. Federal Government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world. It is also committed to ensuring it allocates at least 23% of its contracting dollars to small businesses. In addition, the Federal Government endeavors to award a certain percentage of all federal prime contracting dollars to small businesses that meet certain criteria.

A disability-inclusive small business has a competitive advantage, because it is better positioned as a contractor to meet the federal government’s requirements and disability utilization goals.

Federal contractors and subcontractors cannot discriminate against job applicants or employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran (PDF). The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) enforces these federal contractor requirements. For certain federal contractors, OFCCP has established a utilization goal under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for “qualified individuals with disabilities” to comprise 7% of a contractor’s workforce (either as a whole or within each job group, as relevant).

OFCCP offers a variety of resources to help federal contractors achieve their inclusion goals under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA). Learn more from OFCCP’s Compliance Assistance Guides.

EARN and the National Industry Liaison Group (NILG) also offer an information center with resources for federal contractors and subcontractors of all sizes on meeting disability utilization goals.