Sunday, March 22, 2009

The disabled get a break at GCH Retail

Sunday, March 22, 2009 |

The disabled get a break at GCH Retail

It's introducing programmes to further develop their job capabilities.

GCH Retail (M) Sdn Bhd, which owns the Giant, Cold Storage and Guardian retail outlets in Malaysia, believes everybody deserves an equal opportunity.

The company has about 110 people with disabilities (PWDs) at its stores and outlets nationwide and senior human resources manager Nesan Kandiah says there is no reason why a PWD cannot be just as efficient as an ordinary employee.

"We have had a PWD who was voted staff of the month after just three months (of employment). I do not see why they cannot perform just as well as, if not better than an able-bodied person," he tells StarBizWeek, adding that the company is looking to hire more PWDs by the year-end.

He says the PWDs are generally aged 18 to 35 years and are hearing impaired or have mild physical or learning disabilities.

Most of the PWDs are hired as sales assistants. For convenience and safety, the PWDs hired usually live close to the hypermarket or store outlets where they work.

Like any other employee, they are required to undergo a series of interviews and, if successful, have to undergo two weeks' on-the-job training before being considered for permanent employment.

However, taking into consideration their wellbeing, the PWDs are not encouraged to work overtime during his or her probationary period.

"Being new at their job and working in an open environment, they are not encouraged to work late until we get the permission of their parents," Nesan says, adding that the PWDs' working hours are from 8am to 5pm or 9am to 6pm.

"During the probationary period, we also ensure that our PWDs are always 'buddied' with a supervisor or co-worker, even during their lunch break or when they need to use the restroom."

Nesan says response from other staff has been positive and the public has had nothing but praise for the company's decision to employ PWDs.

"We have received good response from our store management team. They (the PWDs) are very hardworking and are always eager to learn more. We also received positive feedback from our customers," he says.

However, the biggest compliments so far have come from the parents of the PWDs, he adds.

"Many of them thank us for opening our doors and giving their children an opportunity to earn a living."

He says meeting a PWD's parents is always a touching experience. "We have had parents tell us that they can finally die in peace knowing that their child has a job."

Nesan says the good response from all parties is another reason to continue recruiting PWDs. "Business goes on, the recruitment will go on and the development of these people will also go on," he says.

Nesan adds that there is no difference in terms of pay or benefits for the company's PWDs and ordinary employees.

"The PWDs' standard of performance is on par with other employees and we see no reason to set different wage standards," he says.

Nesan says having seen the potential of the PWDs, the company intends to further develop and enhance their job capabilities.

"We want to focus more on training them on matters such as money management, safety and security, and helping them develop and upgrade their skills," he says.

"In the pipeline, we also have programmes to train them to be leaders. A PWD who can become staff of the month has great potential to develop further," he adds.

Nesan says the decision to recruit PWDs came about in late 2007 when GCH was approached by a number of non-governmental organisations to consider that option.

"We began in October 2007 and initially started with 12 PWDs. We started small because we needed to learn about their capabilities and how to train them.

"We also saw it as a chance to provide opportunity for all and it is something that we will always continue to do," he says.

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