Fedweek

Federal agencies have more than met the goals set during the Obama administration for hiring of persons with disabilities but the government is not doing enough to understand why many soon decide to leave the government, GAO has said.

While a 2010 executive order set a goal of hiring 100,000 persons who identify as having a disability by 2015, just the 24 Cabinet departments and largest independent agencies hired 143,000 by that point plus an additional 79,000 the following two years, a report said. In a closer look at three agencies—SSA, Justice and SBA—GAO credited steps such as increased training of personnel involved with hiring in using the special “Schedule A” hiring authority for those with certain disabilities.

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GAO also found that 39 percent of individuals with disabilities hired during 2011 through 2017 stayed less than one year and 60 percent stayed less than two years—about the same as new hires without disabilities. It said that retention rates tend to increase with the GS grade of initial hiring and that it is highest in professional and administrative occupations and lowest in technical occupations.

“These departures may be explained, in part, by the proportion of employees hired into temporary positions who therefore were not necessarily expected to stay on the job for a longer duration,” it said.

However, it said that OPM does not track or report retention data on disabled employees even though the executive order, regulations and implementing guidance all stress its importance. “The loss of such a substantial percentage of new hires within their first two years of employment provides an opportunity for the federal government to examine why this occurs, identify any lessons learned, and better target its retention efforts as appropriate to potentially reduce such early departures,” it said.

It further said that while the agencies it studied met their obligations to track workplace accommodations provided to employees with disabilities, only the SSA has procedures for obtaining feedback from employees after an accommodation is provided.

Many such accommodations come at low or no cost to the agency, it added, such as changes to the layout of a workspace, adjusting working schedules, and allowing service animals in the workplace.

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2020 Federal Employees Handbook