Federal contractors may soon get one more reason to prioritize hiring workers with disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Labor is looking to incentivize inclusive hiring practices among employers who do business with the government through a so-called Excellence in Disability Inclusion award.

Federal contractors that “foster employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities” could be exempt from two years worth of compliance evaluations under the Labor Department plan put forward this month.

In order to qualify for the award, contractors must have an affirmative action plan or an initiative to promote opportunities for people with disabilities, have no outstanding compliance issues and meet a series of other requirements.

“The Excellence in Disability Inclusion award seeks to highlight successful practices and strategies that have expanded and improved the recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion opportunities of individuals with disabilities,” reads the notice outlining the plan to issue the new award, which would be administered by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in conjunction with the Office of Disability Employment Policy.

“By highlighting the exemplary practices of successful contractor establishments, other covered federal contractors should be encouraged to adopt these or similar practices to support their compliance with mandatory obligations under Section 503,” the notice states.

The effort is the Labor Department’s latest to encourage contractors to improve their track records on disability employment. Already, the agency requires most federal contractors to aim for ensuring that at least 7 percent of their workforce is comprised of people with disabilities.

The Labor Department’s plan for the new award is up for public comment through Dec. 4.

Article by Shaun Heasley

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