The Kernan family have been in the retail business in Donegal since the 1920s and now have 4 retail businesses - Newtowncunningham, Ramelton and Ballyshannon and their most recent shop in Stranorlar.
Anthony Kernan took over managing the businesses in 1990 and now employs 130 staff across the four stores. He employed his first person with a disability for a position in his forecourt in the Newtowncunnigham business in 1999. Although, his decision to offer the person the job was met with some scepticism, Anthony believes this was one of the best business decisions he made and has not looked back. Currently, 10% of his staff are people with disabilities and his first employee is still employed with him and is a very valued member of his team.
Anthony has taken positive steps to open employment opportunities for people with disabilities. He employs a number of people with a range of disabilities (i.e. physical, learning, mental health, sensory and hidden disabilities) across all areas and levels in his businesses i.e. retail, forecourt, catering and administration.
When positions become available, he contacts the local Employment Service Office and disability employment organisations such as Employment Response (North West). He has developed a good relationship with Employment Response (North West) over the years and he has benefited from their on going support and advice Anthony is aware of and has availed of the programmes available from FAS and now Department of Social Protection such as Workplace Equipment/Adaptation Grant (WRAG).
Anthony believes that employing people with disabilities makes good business sense, “First of all, people with disabilities can do the same jobs as any one else. Some people with disabilities may require some additional support or an adaption or piece of equipment but once it is in place they can do the job equally well as any one else and in my experience some times better. Secondly, as an employer you have a responsibility to the local community in which you are located, to employ staff from the local community. People with disabilities are part of your local community therefore the staff of your business must reflect this as it’s their family and friends who are your customers”
Anthony actions have not gone unrecognised; he has won two O2 Awards including the National Award for Best Practice in Ireland.