Tim Hortons Hire People with Disabilities

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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Hiring people with disabilities often doesn't require adding accommodation measures and can boost the profit of a business, says Mark Wafer, Tim Hortons franchisee.

When Tim Hortons franchisee Mark Wafer hired Clint Sparling, a young man with Down Syndrome to work at his busy Ontario cafe he didn't know the decision would transform his business and inspire a two decade crusade for inclusive employment.

Sparling was a hard worker, never complained and was always happy to be there says Wafer. He rarely took sick days and boosted morale among the other employees. Nearly two decades later, Sparling is still part of Wafer's team, is married and owns his own condo.

Mark Wafer, Tim Hortons owner, and Clint Sparling (Photo submitted)

"Very quickly after I hired Clint I realized he was my best employee," says Wafer who now owns seven Tim Hortons locations in Ontario.

"That's why I continue to hire people with disabilities."

Wafer hired 91 people with disabilities (PWD) including 41 now employed in his workforce of 210. He has also become a vocal advocate for more inclusive employment in Canada.

The cause is personal for Wafer who only has 20 percent hearing and struggled to keep working until he became a business person.

About 3.8 million people or 13 7 percent of Canadians aged 15 and older reported having a disability in 2012 according to Statistics
Canada. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is now 54 percent, compared to the national average of 6.9 percent, according to StatsCan.

Wafer estimates unemployment for PWD is actually closer to 70 percent if those who have given up looking for work out of frustration are included.

"Not only is hiring people with disabilities the right thing to do," says Wafer. "It can have a dramatic effect on a business's bottom line."

" In bringing them into the workplace you're getting a more loyal employee you're getting a person that will stay with you longer, you're getting a person who is more innovative, more productive and who will work in a safer means."

Myths and Misconceptions

Wafer's stores stats are a testament to the potential of employing people with disabilities. Among his franchises the employee turnover compared to the industry average of 75 percent.  It costs about $4 000 to train a new employee.

In 2011 the absenteeism rate among Wafer's 33 employees with disabilities was zero. He has never made a work-related injury
insurance claim for an employee with a disability. But the "myths and misconceptions about employing people with disabilities remain the greatest barrier to more inclusive workplaces, "says Wafer.

Common concems he hears from CEOs are that safety, productivity or innovation could be compromised by hiring PWD.

The greatest misconception," he says, "is that bosses can't fire an employee with a disability if things are not working out. These fears are groundless," citing several U.S. studies that people with disabilities often have higher safety awareness take fewer risks and show productivity and innovation on par with or better than average.

"The number one barrier to inclusive employment is attitude" says Wafer "however I see improvement in awareness and understanding over the last five years. Business people are starting to get It, slowly. They finally realize this it's simply good for business."

The federal government has also moved to break down barriers to hiring people with disabilities in recent years. Since 2008 over 1.100 projects have been awarded through the Enabling Accessibility Fund, a grants program that supports capital costs related to improving accessibility and safety for PWD in the workplace.

"Canadians with disabilities have a lot to contribute to our economic growth but have traditionally been under-represented in the labour force," said Employment Minister Jason Kenney in a December 2013 statement marking the launch of a new stream for the fund.

"This fund encourages employers to create accessible workplaces for people with disabilities to provide them with better job opportunities. I urge all Canadian employers to do more to train and hire Canadians with disabilities and to ensure their workplaces are accessible."

While Wafer applauds government efforts to support inclusive workplaces, he says real change depends on the private sector. Only
seven percent of workers with disabilities are employed in that sector-the largest employer in the country. Government can't fix this the social service sector can't fix this the community partners the agencies, they can't fix this says Wafer. "The only entity that can fix inclusive employment is the private sector."

From CP

By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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  1. I would love to see this fact completed:
    Among his franchises the employee turnover compared to the industry average of 75 percent. It costs about $4 000 to train a new employee.
    What is his franchise employee turnover rate?
    Otherwise, I’m inspired by this man who lives and helps others, not because of their disability, but in spite of their disability! He sees the ability in everyone, just like he wants people to see his abilities, despite the fact that his hearing isn’t 100% perfect. WHO IS 100% perfect anyhow!?

  2. Tim,

    THANK YOU for helping the disables to get back to work!
    In 1990, I suffered 2 strokes during 7 brain surgeries! Before that, I feel that I had a wonderful, fancy career. After my medical-mayham, about 5 years later, I went back PT to my same company, but not, at all in my same position. I dcomment_ID that for many, many years. However, I got sexually harassed for a few weeks at that company, told my store management, and no one dcomment_ID anything for me. So, I left, could not take the abuse anymore.

    For the past several years, I have been applying, applying and applying on at least 4-5 job sites, for even basic PT/FT positions, but I still have no luck. Could we connect and see if you could help me? I sure hope so!

    Thanks in advance,
    Lisa A. Stuckel

  3. Mark and Tim,
    Thank you, so much for what you do in Canada!
    As a franchise, have you move into North America, YET??? 🙂 There are plenty of disable people here, like me, so hopefully, I could apply someday soon. I live in the NW suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Elk Grove Village, to be exact I will try to track Oye!, and see if/when you will be around me. I hope so!!

    Thanks for what you both do, on this crazy world we live in! Here and there I do feel that I have met Angels on this earth, and it sound like I just met two HERE.

    Elizabeth (Lisa) A. Stuckel

  4. Mark:
    You are truly an inspiration to me and my organization here in Michigan. Lakestate Industries Marquette and Escanaba. We had the pleasure of having Mr. Wafer visit our facility here in Marquette yesterday and offered us a great deal of insight on hiring policies in Canada. We will make a difference and break down the barriers to employment in the US and Canada.

    Shelby Bischoff
    Lakestate Industries Inc.
    Business Development and Community Engagement Manager

  5. Dear Mr. Wafer:

    We have a son who was diagnosed with ADHD, Aspergers and Delayed Development Syndrome. He was working for some time at a Canadian Tire Store here in Calgary, Alberta. But then the new management deccomment_IDed they needed someone who was “more capable” and let him go. And for the past year or so we have been searching for work for our son, with absolutely no luck. Is there any way, Mr. Wafer, that you could assist us in getting our son a job? It is so distressing for him, because he wants so badly to work. However, with his disabilities, he cannot work shift work, only days. He would do good in warehouse or other labour positions.

    Thank you kindly, sir.
    Angie A. Baier
    403 510-7897

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