Ability at work: Tapping the talent of people with disability
In August 2006 the Management Advisory Committee (MAC) launched its report Employment of People with Disability in the APS.1 That report set out the view of MAC that the Australian Public Service (APS) should provide a work environment that is more effective at attracting employees with disability and that better supports the aspirations of existing employees with disability. In a tightening labour market, recruiting and retaining skilled and talented employees, with or without disability, is a challenge for us all and we cannot afford to ignore appropriately qualified candidates with disability.
The report set eight objectives for promoting the employment of people with disability, focussing on improving workplace cultures and policies. These objectives have been agreed and endorsed by all of the members of MAC, and set clear directions for the future.
The MAC report also drew attention to the fact that the representation of people with disability has been declining steadily over a long period. The subsequent State of the Service Report 2005-062 confirmed that, although our data is incomplete, the declining trend in the employment of people with disability was continuing and that people with disability made up only 3.4 per cent of ongoing APS employment as at 30 June 2006. It is important that we put in place measures to turn this decline around.
This toolkit has been developed to assist agencies in their efforts to improve the way that they attract and retain people with disability. Some of this material will be new to people who go through the kit, some of it will confront stereotypes and the way we think about things, but most of it is simply good sense. The initiatives and strategies that will create an environment that supports the employment of people with disability are good human resources practice and will benefit all of us.
The toolkit draws on the lessons learned from an evaluation of six APS agencies—the Family Court, Questacon, the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA), the Department of Defence, Centrelink and the Royal Australian Mint—that examined the practices they have in place to support the recruitment, retention and development of people with disability. I would like to particularly thank both those agencies and their staff for their contribution to this publication.
The first part of the toolkit covers a range of questions and issues that are often raised by employees and managers concerning the employment of people with disability. It tackles some of the ‘mythology’ that exists. It sets out some common sense approaches to dealing with these questions, and gives agencies pointers to where they can go for further information on particular topics, including information on different types of disability.
The second part of the toolkit reflects the results of the evaluation which highlighted the selection and recruitment of people with disability as a particular concern, and the consultation we undertook with APS managers, human resources staff, and employees to see what development material they felt they needed in this area. The material that we have included reflects the common demand for training material that was highly specific to the APS and dealt with the kinds of issues that can arise in selection processes.
The third segment of the toolkit revisits the objectives established by MAC, setting out some clear and practical initiatives that agencies can implement to improve the way that they recruit, retain, and develop employees with disability. These are drawn from the experience of employers in both the APS and other employment sectors.
Finally, there are three quick reference checklists at the back of the toolkit providing fast advice for senior managers, people running selection exercises, and human resource practitioners.
One of the key messages of the toolkit is the need for leaders in the workplace to strengthen workplace cultures that support diversity. This is an important message, and will figure in any successful strategy. It does not take away, however, from the responsibility that we all share as public servants to recognise the value of diversity in our workplaces. This toolkit provides advice that I hope will help us all, irrespective of our positions.
Australian Public Service Commissioner