Ontario Tim Hortons owner to share his inclusive hiring story
Michelle Strutzenberger

Shortly after opening his first Tim Hortons location in Ontario in 1995, Mark Wafer hired his first employee who has an intellectual disability. He has since gone on to employ and/or provide job placements for more than 80 people who have a disability.

Citing a range of financial benefits including lower turnover, higher productivity and quality work, Mark has become an active champion of inclusive hiring. Now an owner of seven Tim Hortons franchises, he has shared his story across the country and also spearheaded a number of related successful change initiatives.

In 2009, Mark persuaded the licensing company for Tim Hortons franchises, TDL Group Corp., to launch a franchise-wide educational program about the merits of including people who have a disability in the workforce.

Mark has also dedicated countless volunteer hours to traveling around Ontario making public awareness presentations to Rotary Clubs and individual Rotarians, urging them to consider hiring people who have a disability and, in turn, to assist in championing this cause. This effort has resulted in more than 80 people who have a disability being hired over the last two years.

Speaking at a B.C. conference on inclusive hiring earlier this year, Mark again encouraged people to shift their mindset on inclusive hiring. Too often, business owners are encouraged to hire people with disabilities out of charity, but business speaks the language of business, and it’s this message business need to hear, he said.

“If your approach is to tell a business owner that they’re going to make more money and have less turnover (through inclusive hiring), they’re going to sit up and take notice,” Mark told the audience.

In July 2012, the Government of Canada appointed a panel to consult with private sector employers, as well as other organizations and individuals, on the labour market participation of people with disabilities. The final report, directed at Canadian private sector employers, identified that while most of the companies surveyed showed a genuine desire to hire people with disabilities, they need education and training to overcome barriers, dispel myths and put theory into practice.

The research also corroborated Mark’s experience that hiring people who have a disability is good for business. Keys to success on this front are leadership and effective community partnership, the report also identified.

Mark is a keynote speaker at a Maple Ridge event Oct. 2, titled The Financial Benefits of an Inclusive Workplace: How you can lower the costs of recruitment and retention and gain higher revenues while reaching a wider customer base.

The event is hosted by the Rotary Clubs of Fraser Valley and The LAST Committee, which is comprised of local and provincial organizations, including posAbilities, committed to raising awareness of the importance and value of fully inclusive workplaces in BC.

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