Employing people with disability
People with disability bring to the workforce relevant skills, qualifications and experience to professions ranging from leadership positions, managerial as well as administrative.
The principles of employment are the same for people with disability as those without disability. The main focus should be on whether the individual has the skills and aptitude to perform the inherent requirements of the job.
What is disability?
Section 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act, 1992 (Cth) (‘DDA’) defines disability as follows:
“…disability, in relation to a person, means:
(a) total or partial loss of the person’s bodily or mental functions; or
(b) total or partial loss of a part of the body; or
(c) the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness; or
(d) the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness; or
(e) the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person’s body; or
(f) a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction; or
(g) a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgment or that results in disturbed behaviour;
and includes a disability that:
(h) presently exists; or
(i) previously existed but no longer exists; or
(j) may exist in the future (including because of a genetic predisposition to that disability); or
(k) is imputed to a person.To avoid doubt, disability that is otherwise covered by this definition includes behaviour that is a symptom or manifestation of the disability.”
Benefits of employing people with disability
When employing people with disability, organisations can benefit by:
- attracting and retaining the best person for the job
- increasing the diversity of the workplace
- improving workplace productivity
- promoting a workplace culture that is accessible and inclusive of employees with disability
What adjustments will need to be made?
People with disability do not always require workplace modifications or reasonable adjustments. Where adjustments are required, they are often simple and inexpensive.The Department of Education Employment & Workplace Relations www.deewr.gov.au as well as JobAccess both host a comprehensive website on various resources available to employees with disability.
Financial assistance for workplace modifications
As of 1 March 2010, the Workplace Modifications Scheme and Auslan for Employment was replaced by the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF).
Financial assistance for employers on disability, mental health and Deafness awareness training is a new available addition under the EAF.
Another addition, is the provision of up to $1,500 per year for specialist workplace support for employees with specific learning disorders and mental health conditions.
The Employment Assistance Fund requires employers to submit an online application on JobAccess. The application is assessed by the JobAccess service provider who may arrange for a workplace assessment to independently assess the individual’s requirements for equipment or modification.
The Employment Assistance Fund has developed into a more flexible program of assistance which aims to remove barriers to work and workplace productivity. If a person with disability requires a workplace modification or piece of equipment as a result of their disability an EAF application should be lodged with Job Access.
Examples of what can be reimbursed:
- building modifications up to $30,000
- Modifications to work vehicles
- Communication technology devices, assistive listening devices, paging systems, telephony and computer hardware
- Computer software, including upgrades (eg. Zoomtext, JAWS)
- Modifications to work equipment
- Training in the use of the modification/equipment
Protecting the rights of people with disability
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) provides legal protection for people with disability, their families and carers against discrimination on the grounds of their disability or association to an individual with a disability.
The DDA prohibits discrimination against people with disability in the workplace, including:
- advertising jobs and interviewing candidates
- decisions on who will get the job
- terms and conditions of employment such as pay rates, work hours, job design and leave entitlements
- promotion, transfer, training or other career development
- termination of employment, demotion or retrenchment.
- Access to information
- Access to the built workplace environment including an accessible kitchen and toilet or a hearing loop in a board room
- Workplace culture, particularly attitudes and language used
- Privacy and confidentiality pertaining to the discloser of an employee’s disability
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission website has best practice guidelines on recruitment and selection to help you to implement a consistent method of recruitment and encourage applications from the widest possible pool of talent.
What support and incentives are available?
There are a variety of incentives and schemes that may be available to employers when employing a person with disability. These include:
- Wage subsidies – payments to eligible employers to help cover the costs of paying wages in the first few months of employment of a person with disability
- Employment Assistance Fund – helps pay for the cost of workplace adjustments or solutions needed to accommodate a worker with disability in a job
- Supported wage system – supports employees with disability and their employer to match a person’s productivity with a fair wage
- Disabled Australian Apprentice Wage Support (DAAWS) (PDF) – provides help and support to employers of eligible apprentices and trainees with disability, as well as tutorial, interpreter and mentor services for off-the-job training
- Auslan for Employment program (AFE) - helps employers provide Auslan interpreting services for deaf employees
- Transition to Work program - helps school leavers with disability to develop skills that will enable them to move into employment or further education.
- Payroll tax rebate scheme – Disability employment - available to eligible employers that employ a graduate of the Transition to Work Program.
Did you know?
In 2003, nine per cent of people with disability in NSW were unemployed, compared with a general unemployment rate of six per cent (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics). The NSW 2021 plan has set a target of closing this unemployment gap by at least 50 per cent by 2016.