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Employees with disability in the APS

The Australian Public Service (APS) is committed to improving the representation of people with disability in its workforce.

The APS can best meet the needs of the Australian community if its workforce reflects the diversity of the community.

As a large and geographically dispersed employer, the APS is well positioned to lead the way in the employment of people with disability.

Source: APSED

To support the APS-wide focus on increasing the representation of employees with disability, the Australian Public Service Commission launched As One: Making it Happen— APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016-19 (the Strategy) on 31 May 2016.

The Strategy was developed in consultation with employees with disability, APS agencies and peak disability bodies. It sets out four key action areas to:

  • expand the range of employment opportunities for people with disability
  • invest in developing the capability of employees with disability
  • increase the representation of employees with disability in senior roles
  • foster inclusive cultures in the workplace.

Resources to assist agencies were launched with the strategy include the:

All agencies are responsible for improving the representation of people with disability in their workforce. All employees have an obligation to engage with, and contribute to, initiatives that support employment of people with disability in the APS. The initiatives also require the support of employees with disability. Their ideas and participation are essential in making the APS as inclusive as possible.

When agencies were asked if they had commenced implementing the steps outlined in the Strategy, just over one third of agencies reported that they had commenced implementation across the whole agency. A further 39.8% reported that implementation is in development.

Implementation of the APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016-19

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 2.

Some of the actions agencies reported taking to implement the Strategy include:

a. applying ‘RecruitAbility’1 to all advertised vacancies
b. appointment of a Disability Champion at the Senior Executive Service level
c. disability awareness training
d. development of a disability action plan.

Agencies are undertaking a range of activities to support the employment of people with disability. Some examples are below:

a. New opportunities for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are provided in a program underway at the Department of Human Services. Under the award winning Dandelion Program, trainees with ASD work as functional testers of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) alongside Human Services teams in three of the department’s offices.

b. The Department of Defence Intellectual Disability Employment Initiative is a program of 18 centrally funded positions for people with an intellectual disability, employed through the intellectual disability affirmative measure at Defence sites throughout Australia.

c. A number of agencies are involved in the ‘Stepping Into’ internship program facilitated by the Australian Network on Disability. The program is a paid internship designed specifically for university students with disability.

d. Several agencies have put in place a Reasonable Adjustment Passport. The Passport ensures that reasonable adjustments required by an employee with disability are documented. It is a useful tool to open discussion with managers regarding any adjustments required in the workplace and can assist employees moving to a new work area or manager.

The new Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2016 have been made. The Directions commence on 1 December 2016 and replace the 2013 Commissioner’s Directions in their entirety. The new Directions contain a broad affirmative measure to support the engagement of people with disability. Agencies can apply this measure to the selection of people with disability, or a particular type of disability, for both ongoing and non-ongoing processes. This affirmative measure also applies to the engagement or promotion of a person assessed as not able to compete on merit, in consultation with a disability employment service provider.

Supporting employment of people with disability

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 3.

Data on disability is collected through agency human resources (HR) systems and is reported annually in the APS Statistical Bulletin. The figures reported in the Statistical Bulletin are the official demographic statistics on the representation of employees with disability in the APS.

Information about employees with disability is also collected through the annual APS employee census. Of these respondents, eight percent of employees reported that they have an ongoing disability2. This proportion is higher than the official data reported in the APS Statistical Bulletin.

Census respondents who reported having an ongoing disability were asked if their disability is recorded on their agency’s HR information system—that is, whether they have informed their agency that they have a disability.

Almost one third of staff who reported having a disability responded that their disability was not recorded on their agency’s HR system. Seventeen percent reported that they had chosen not to inform their agency of their disability, while ten percent said they had never been asked for that information.

Is your ongoing disability recorded on your agency’s human resource information system

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 4.

Census respondents who reported having an ongoing disability were also asked when they acquired their disability. The majority responded that their disability was acquired while in their current job.

When did you acquire your disability?

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 5.

Analysis of employee engagement scores shows that employees with disability typically report lower levels of engagement across all four dimensions – job, team, supervisor and agency. These results indicate that there is scope to improve the experience of employees with disability in order to increase their engagement.

Employee engagement by disability status, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 6.

When asked what the biggest barrier to career development is within their agency, employees with disability most frequently cited lack of promotion opportunities. Only 11.1 percent reported that being a member of a diversity group is a barrier to their career development. Employees with disability were more likely than employees without disability to report that unfair recruitment practices are a barrier to their career development.

Barriers to career development

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 7.

Of those employees who reported having a disability, 70 percent reported that they have a medical condition, illness or injury, or disability for which they require some reasonable adjustment in the workplace or which in some way affects their ability to perform your work. These respondents were then able to report the type of reasonable adjustment required. More than one item could be selected. Furniture items were the most frequently cited type of adjustment required, followed by arrangements relating to work hours.

Reasonable adjustments

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 8.

Eight percent of census respondents reported managing an employee with disability in the last 12 months. The majority of these managers reported feeling confident that they could manage any reasonable adjustments required by the employee and that they were supported by their team. Almost two thirds of respondents reported being supported by their agency’s HR team.

Managing employees with disability

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 9.

[1] RecruitAbility is a scheme that aims to attract and develop applicants with disability and also facilitate cultural changes in selection panels and agency recruitment. RecruitAbility can be applied to all vacancies across the APS, including Senior Executive Service roles. Job applicants with disability who opt into the scheme and meet the minimum requirements of a vacancy advertised under the scheme are advanced to a further stage in the selection process. Merit remains the basis for engagement and promotion. The affirmative measure that provides for the RecruitAbility scheme is set out in Part 2.2 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2013 (the Directions) at clause 2.17A. This measure will be reflected in Section 28 of the new 2016 Directions.

[2] For the purpose of the APS employee census, a person has a disability if they report that have a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least 6 months and restricts everyday activities. This includes:

  • Loss of sight (not corrected by glasses or contact lenses)
  • Loss of hearing where communication is restricted, or an aid to assist with, or substitute for, hearing is used
  • Speech difficulties
  • Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties causing restriction
  • Chronic or recurrent pain or discomfort causing restriction
  • Blackouts, fits, or loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty learning or understanding
  • Incomplete use of arms or fingers
  • Difficulty gripping or holding things
  • Incomplete use of feet or legs
  • Long term effects of head injury, stroke or other brain damage causing restriction
  • Nervous or emotional condition causing restriction
  • Restriction in physical activities or in doing physical work
  • Receiving treatment or medication for any other long-term conditions or ailments and still restricted
  • Mental illness or condition requiring help or supervision
  • Disfigurement or deformity
  • Any other long-term conditions resulting in a restriction.