Inclusivity and equal opportunity: Bayer supports employment for PWDs in the Philippines
Filipino Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) remain one of the most marginalized sectors, and employment is one of the biggest challenges that they face. Out of 1,187,563 Filipino PWDs registered with the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) only 353,000 or about 20% were part of the workforce in January 2022. While there are government agencies and disability laws that are designed to support PWDs to become productive citizens, many are still caught in unstable occupations such as domestic work or ambulant vending.
Michael Vincent “Mac” D. Bulalacao, who is deaf, recalls his challenges in landing a job. “Life was hard, tired and sad. Some companies do not accept deaf applicants because of lack of awareness.” Now, he is happily employed as an Associate in the Controlling Services department at Bayer Global Business Services (GBS) Manila. Mac is also joined by ten other PWD employees, including Trivor Latayan who was the first deaf employee of the company in the country.
Trivor, who works in the Financial Accounting & Tax department, has been with Bayer GBS Manila for more than 4 years. He says, he worked at two other companies before landing a job at Bayer, where he says his true career began. “I was looking for job opportunities with better working conditions, and I found Bayer above my expectations. People here work as a team. People here are warm and welcoming—they are even willing to learn my language and adjust to my communication needs. When I met my team, they looked excited and happy to meet me. I was very surprised that they know the alphabet sign language because they attended deaf awareness and sign language as part of the company’s preparations. That day was like one of the best things to happen in my life. To my workmates, thank you for the opportunities that made me feel like I was normal and not like I was special.”
Gracey Del Rosario was diagnosed with glaucoma at the age of one. “I was experiencing moderate to severe pain in my eyes during my childhood days. The doctors tried to do eye surgery but upon tests, they said that my optic nerve is not functioning anymore, so I just accepted the situation wholeheartedly and tried to live a normal life and do things as normal as possible. However, it was difficult for me to find work as companies are hesitant to hire PWDs.”
A B.S. Psychology graduate, Gracey is currently working as a Junior Associate in the Talent Acquisition department at Bayer GBS Manila. “My colleagues are very welcoming and supportive. They patiently orient me not only with my tasks but also with the tool that I will be using and everything else that I need to be guided at, even the physical lay-out of the office. At first, I had a hard time using MS Teams since it is my first time dealing with the app and also the accessibility of the tools being used to perform my tasks but with the help and patience of my teammates, I was able to learn to use those tools and utilize it to perform my duties well.”
Bayer Philippines Inc. Country HR Lead Michael Panlaqui says opening opportunities for PWDs and ensuring that each team member is included and valued is aligned with the company’s vision of “Health for all, Hunger for None.” Through its inclusive programs that foster a positive and inclusive work culture where all employees feel respected and valued, the organization actively contributes to nation-building and people feel more empowered to spearhead initiatives that further DE&I (Diversity, Equality and Inclusion). “The program promotes diversity, bringing in different perspectives, and diverse talents to drive innovation and creativity and helps the organization stay competitive in a global marketplace that values DE&I.”
To implement the PWD employee program, Bayer Philippines conducted a series of inclusive virtual hiring events with reasonable accommodations for PWD applicants. Team members of PWD colleagues received culture sensitivity training to ensure the smooth onboarding, with training created for Advocating Inclusion & Diversity Through the use of Filipino Sign Language. Necessary adjustments were made for onboarding PWD colleagues, offering customized plans according to the needed accommodation, on-the-job training, and gradually empowering them to perform tasks independently.
Team meetings, town halls, and events were also made inclusive by providing resources like deaf interpreters and live captions. The company also installed the necessary supporting technology enabling visually-impaired employees like Gracey to do their job.
Infrastructure-wise, the One Bayer Philippines office inaugurated last year was designed to be PWD-inclusive, with features such as PWD-friendly hallways and meeting room door widths, and height-adjustable workstations that cater not just for standing work but also for wheelchair-bound employees. All common toilets are provided with PWD water closets. In cases of emergency, strobe lights are strategically located in the general work area. “Aside from the alarm, these lights will signal and are visible even when inside the meeting rooms. This is for employees with hearing disability,” explains Panlaqui.
To promote an inclusive mindset and ensure they understand the importance of accessibility, the company provided training and awareness programs to employees. Since the implementation of the program, Panlaqui reports that there have been high results from internal employee survey on inclusion and diversity topics. “The top three statements from our recent Great Place to Work survey results include DE&I topics – and all 3 Bayer entities: Bayer Philippines Inc., Bayer CropScience Inc., and Bayer Business Services Philippines Inc. are now certified as a Great Place to Work. The results came out after the June 2023 Trust Index Survey.” He adds that the positive impact of PWD inclusion has led to an increase in employee engagement and memberships with internal employee groups that advocate for LGBTQ+, PWD, and women’s empowerment.
For Gracey, Mac, and Trivor, Bayer has given them the opportunity to realize their full potential. Trivor says, “I have grown by learning how to manage my time, money and mentality. I have gained more confidence, working with other people, and have learned a lot of new things every day. I am advocating my fellow PWDs to never stop dreaming even it is hard, despite being misunderstood, discriminated against, and oppressed for generations. I want to be a good example that even if we are special, we can do what others can do, as we can be always the best version of ourselves.” Mac says, “I feel happy, proud and blessed that through my work at Bayer I’m able to uplift the lives of Filipino families and communities through the company’s involvement in the fields of health and agriculture.”
Panlaqui says Bayer is looking to hire even more PWD employees in the Philippines, through partnering with government organizations, nongovernment organizations, and schools including the National Council on Disability Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, Adaptive Technology for Rehabilitation, Integration and Empowerment of the Visually Impaired (ATRIEV), Philippine Business & Disability Network (PBDN) and the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde School for the Deaf.