Using Commissioner's Direction 2.17 - Engaging a person with disability through a Disability Employment Service provider

Last updated: 13 Mar 2014

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Purpose of this guide

This guide to clause 2.17 of the APS Commissioner's Directions is directed at APS managers, senior leaders and human resources practitioners. This clause allows for the employment of people with disability who are unlikely to be able to compete in an open merit selection process.

Clause 2.17 states:

2.17 Affirmative measure—engagement of person with disability unable to participate in competitive selection process
  1. This clause applies in relation to a person with disability who has been assessed by a disability employment service provider as likely to be unable, because of their disability, to compete successfully on merit in a competitive selection process that complies with Part 2.1.
  2. An Agency Head may engage the person as an APS employee to fill a vacancy where that vacancy is designed and created for, or identified as suitable for, the person in consultation with the disability employment service provider, without complying with Part 2.1.
Note: If the engagement is to be as a non-ongoing APS employee for a specified term, or for the duration of a specified task, the requirements of regulation 3.5 of the Regulations apply to the engagement, including requirements relating to the grounds for the engagement and the term of the engagement.

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People with disability in the APS

This guide is about a measure directed at a subset of people with disability. 'People with disability' represent a diverse group of people with a range of impairments - including physical, intellectual, learning, sensory and neurological. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) definition a person has a disability 'if they have a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities'.

The severity and type of a person's disability is refleced in their ability to participate in the labour force. For example, people with intellectual disability, stroke or brain injury have around a 35% labour force participation rate. Compare that to people without disability (83%) and people with disability (53%) (ABS 2012).

The APS does not keep data on the severity of employees' disabilities, but State of the Service data suggests that the APS has a lower rate of employment of people with disability (2.9% officially disclosed, 7% through the APS-wide employee confidential census), compared to the working age population with disability (14.4%, ABS 2012).

Some managers might think that it is someone else's job to ensure the APS reflects the community it serves – but every decision adds up.

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Why employ people with disability?

Employing people with disability under this affirmative measure is part of the APS's commitment to reflect the community it serves. The benefits of recruiting and retaining people with disability are increasingly being realised by large organisations, as they seek to enhance their reputation with their customers and communities. For more information on the case for disability employment see As One: APS Disability Employment Strategy.

Every APS recruiter and hiring manager can make a contribution to ensuring the APS is reflecting the community it serves while also seeking to effectively meet a business need.

Historically people who appeared, acted and expressed themselves differently due to an impairment were subject to stereotypes that limited their employment prospects. These outdated attitudes prevented the labour force participation of people with disability, at great cost to individual, employers and society. The APS is actively committed to challenging these outdated attitudes and to creating employment opportunities that are accessible to people with disability.

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Employing a person with disability

There are two affirmative (special) measures in the Directions for people with disability who may find it especially hard to gain employment in the open market. This guide is mainly about one of those measures.

What this guide is not about

  1. This guide is not about mainstream recruitment. Most commonly, APS agencies select people with disability through the ordinary competitive merit selection process, whether they know they have disability or not. Many people with disability are very competitive on the open market.
  2. This guide is not about the identified positions for people with intellectual disability (Clause 2.16). Under the Directions, people with an intellectual disability can also be engaged for an identified position. The applicants go through a competitive process - but only among like candidates who meet the definition of a person with intellectual disability. You can find out more about this arrangement on the Commission's website.

What this guide is about

This guide is about recruitment using a Disability Employment Services provider to select a person who is unlikely to be able to compete on merit due to a disability (see Clause 2.17). The person does not have to have a specific type of impairment.

In 2010, the Public Service Commissioner made a Direction to provide for the employment of a person who is unlikely to be able compete on merit without going to an open competitive merit process. This streamlines recruitment for the APS agency and gives a person from a disadvantaged group new chances at employment in the APS.

Specifically, clause 2.17 of the Directions says that an agency head can engage (temporarily or permanently),

  1. a person who is assessed as unable (or likely to be unable) to be successful in a normal competitive merit selection process due to disability, and that they must do this,
  2. in consultation with a disability employment services provider.

The provider can help the agency with expertise and practical support, such as:

  • Settling-in advice and ongoing support, such as reasonable adjustments and training plans.
  • If necessary, help with job design to match tasks to the individual's capabilities.

A temporary APS employee can be made a permanent employee using clause 2.17, or this can happen as part of an external engagement. This must occur in consultation with a Disability Employment Services provider who provides evidence to the hiring manager that the person cannot, or would be unlikely to be able to, compete in an open selection process.

It's often easier to recruit someone using clause 2.17 of the Directions than going to the open employment market.

Several agencies have used clause 2.17 to employ people with disability. As agencies become more comfortable with the arrangements, we expect this usage to increase.

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Consulting with Disability Employment Service providers

As previously stated, if agencies use clause 2.17 to employ a person with disability, they must consult with a disability employment services provider.

That is because a provider is able to assess a person's job capabilities and the level of their disability, and also provide the agency with practical support. The provider can also work with APS managers on designing work to suit the abilities of a person with disability, while also filling a real business need for the agency.

What is a Disability Employment Services provider?

You may or may not have come across a Disability Employment Service provider before. The Directions define a disability employment services provider as an 'organisation that facilitates access to employment for persons with disabilities'. The Australian Government funds a national network of these providers, through the Disability Employment Services (DES) program.

Why use a provider?

Whenever you're using any Disability Employment Services provider under clause 2.17, it's important to consult with them to satisfy yourself that the prospective candidate for a position is unable, or likely to be unable, to compete successfully in an ordinary merit selection process due to their disability.

How do I find a provider?

You can look up the DES providers at the Australian JobSearch website, via 'Find a provider '> 'Search for a provider' > 'Disability Employment Services'.

That pathway will search and map the DES providers by your state, location, or postcode. There are over 2,000 DES sites nationally. You can also get DES assistance by calling 1800 464 800, or by using their online enquiry form.

Can I do this for a number of vacancies across my agency?

Yes. The National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC) can assist organisations with more than 100 employees fill multiple vacancies. APS agencies in this category can sign a memorandum of understanding with the NDRC, which will then provide a point of liaison with multiple DES providers to help fill vacancies across the agency. The NDRC also provides free advice and assistance to the agency to develop recruitment practices that will better support the employment of people with disability.

What if the applicant is the relative or friend of someone I know?

As with all recruitment, if you know an applicant, it is important that you do not put yourself in a position which creates a reasonable perception of discrimination, patronage or favouritism.

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Reasonable adjustments

All APS agencies make reasonable adjustments, to level the playing field for applicants with disability in recruitment and employment. Common reasonable adjustments in recruitment are modifications to the selection process, such as more time to answer questions. Costs of reasonable adjustments are generally low, and may be covered at no cost to the employer by the Australian Government's Employment Assistance Fund.

More information is available on the Commissions' website.

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The role of the Australian Public Service Commission

The Commission helps APS agencies to create capable, talented and diverse workforces. It shares ways and means to improve the attraction, recruitment, and retention of people with disability across the APS. We have developed and introduced Directions to help agencies build a diverse and socially inclusive workforce, including from identified disadvantaged groups that have low job participation rates.

At our website, you'll find relevant publications such as As One: APS Disability Employment Strategy and the State of the Service Report on the APS workforce features and trends. The State of the Service Report: Statistical Bulletin contains specific data on the numbers and characteristics of all APS employees, including people with disability.

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Case study: Noah & CRIMTRAC

In July 2010, a CRIMTRAC line manager, Gresham, identified the business need for an APS 1 position in his team. Gresham was aware that the APS Commissioner's Directions allowed agencies to employ people with a disability who were unlikely to be able to enter employment through regular recruitment. Consistent with Clause 2.17, Gresham approached a Disability Employment Service (DES) provider to see whether they had a suitable list of candidates.

Gresham, together with a person from the HR area, met with the DES provider's consultant, Ken, to discuss the tasks required for the position and to assess a potential candidate for the role. Ken put forward Noah as someone who would be a good fit for the role. Noah was eligible for opportunities under the Directions because the DES provider could provide evidence that his health condition meant that he was unlikely to be successful in open merit based recruitment.

Despite having a range of work experience, an undergraduate degree and Certificate II accreditation in Business Administration, Noah had been unsuccessful in securing employment prior to coming to a DES provider.

He was a strong candidate for the APS 1 role. As a result Gresham and the HR area agreed to recommend Noah to their senior leadership team, and subsequently Noah was engaged as a non-ongoing APS 1 employee for a period of six months.

Ken, the DES consultant, organised a workplace assessment and provided post-placement support for six months.

Gresham and his team consider Noah to be a productive and valued employee. Noah's contract was renewed, and at the completion of this second contract in August 2011, he was appointed to an ongoing position as a Facility Officer at CRIMTRAC.

Noah enjoys his role in the APS and is undertaking further training.

Noah's placement was successful because of CRIMTRAC's approach. CRIMTRAC maintained open lines of communication with the DES provider and created a work environment that supports people with disability.

CRIMTRAC is considering another vacancy following a similar process.

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