Disability: Information for managers and human resources professionals
As a manager or human resources professional you have a responsibility to make sure that employees with disability are given a ‘fair go’ and have access to the same opportunities as other people.
It is important to understand that people with disability are not a homogenous group. People with disability have a wide variety of conditions and impairments, including physical, sensory, mental and intellectual. The severity and longevity of these conditions and impairments, combined with social and environmental barriers, give rise to unique experiences of disability.
Making reasonable adjustments means managers can confidently recruit people with disability and retain them in employment. Being aware that everyone is different is a key principle. However common types of reasonable adjustment can include:
Reasonable adjustment examples
Adjustments to the workplace, equipment or facilities, including provision of additional software or equipment
- voice activated software for someone that cannot type for long periods
- ergonomic equipment
Adjustments to work-related communications including the form or format in which information is available
- providing documents to a person with visual impairment in text format rather than as scanned images
Adjustments to work methods
- providing additional training or mentoring
- shifting minor tasks that are inordinately hard to other team members
Adjustments to work arrangements, including in relation to hours of work—e.g. part-time work or flexible work arrangements
- change of working hours to part-time, perhaps starting and finishing later.
- time off work for rehabilitation
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 requires employers to make reasonable adjustments so a person with disability does not have difficulty in employment. The majority of adjustments cost very little.
Reasonable adjustment in recruitment
Reasonable adjustments in the selection process allow people with disability to compete fairly for employment. They may be needed at the pre-interview, interview and assessment stages.
There is no exhaustive list of the kinds of changes can be made to a selection process or the way in which duties are performed. There are many different types of limitations and barriers to employment, and they affect people with disability in highly individual ways. For example, a person who cannot type may need voice activated dictation software, which in large organisations often can be provided without undue expense.
All good employers will ask the person with disability what it is they need to be able to participate equally as a first step to assessing what is a reasonable adjustment, and keep them informed throughout.
Making a decision
Individual managers are not expected to be experts in this area or make these decisions alone. Employers often choose to and are encouraged to seek advice about reasonable adjustment from expert sources (click here to access free expert advice via JobAccess).
Nevertheless, the final decision on what type of adjustment should be provided rests with the employer: employers are not bound to accept one form of advice over another and should exercise their own judgement. The first question is whether it works, that is, whether it allows that employee to participate fully in a way that suits their unique circumstances.
Publications and resources
A toolkit developed to assist agencies in their efforts to improve the way that they attract and retain people with disability.
This publication provides assistance to disability support providers and others involved in supporting employment of people with disability.
A comprehensive training program focusing on merit-based assessment, defining what your agency needs and wants, and applying these requirements to selection processes.
This program provides you with skills, advice, assistance and support required when working with people living with emotional and psychological illness.
Commonwealth Government resources
JobAccess is an information and advice service funded by the Australian Government. It offers help and workplace solutions for people with disability and their employers.
The Employment Assistance Fund helps people with disability and mental health condition by providing financial assistance to purchase a range of work related modifications and services.
The Workplace Adjustment Tool is a searchable database of products and solutions that can remove barriers in the workplace for people with disability.
The Supported Wage System aims to increase employment opportunities for people with disability by providing a framework that enables the legal payment of a productivity-based, or pro-rata wage.
The Wage Subsidy Scheme offers financial assistance through wage subsidies to employers who employ Disability Employment Services participants.
The National Disability Recruitment Coordinator service aims to increase the number of job vacancies available to Disability Employment Services for people with disability.
Disabled Australian Apprentice Wage Support is an Australian Government incentive payable to an employer who employs an apprentice who satisfies the disability eligibility criteria.
Work experience is a part of the Australian Government’s employment service, Job Services Australia.
JobAccess provides advice about improving the recruitment process to attract people with disability.
The National Disability Strategy sets out a ten year national plan for improving life for Australians with disability, their families and carers. It represents a commitment by all levels of government, industry and the community to a unified, national approach to policy and program development.
The Australian Human Rights Commission’s homepage on the rights of people with disability
Complaints about discrimination
State and Territory anti-discrimination agencies
- ACT Human Rights Commission
- NSW Anti-Discrimination Board
- Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission
- WA Equal Opportunity Commission
- NT Anti-Discrimination Commission
- Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission
- SA Equal Opportunity Commission
- Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
Peak bodies and not-for-profit organisations
(Note: these links are provided for information purposes. The APSC does not endorse or take responsibility for their content.)
- Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
- Australian Network on Disability
- Mental Health Council of Australia
- Vision Australia
- MS Australia
- Australian Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Association
- Disability Employment Australia
- Physical Disability Australia
- Cerebral Palsy Australia
- Arthritis Australia
- Brain Injury Australia
- Deafness Forum of Australia
- Disability Works Australia
- Epilepsy Action Australia
- National Ethnic Disability Alliance
- National Council on Intellectual Disability
- Sane Australia