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Section 1: Our response

The Australian Public Service Commission will work across the APS to develop and set an agenda for change and delivery.

To translate rhetoric and goodwill into actual results requires the engagement of all leaders and employees across the APS. With collaboration comes greater understanding of good practice, sharing and learning and access to expertise.

There is also a need to make workforce inclusion a priority for allstaff, not just those working in human resources – everyone has a role to play.

Connecting with our stakeholders

To inform the strategy, a consultative process was carried out to seek the views of interested stakeholders. Interstate and international comparisons were also conducted to get a better appreciation forthe range of interventions used in jurisdictions that had achieved inclusive workplaces. This process
has contributed significantly to the richness and depth of thinking underpinning this strategy, and has helped shape a set of initiatives that have the potential to deliver change.

Taking action

The stakeholder feedback gives us a clear agenda for change. The initiatives are designed with the following principles in mind:

  • Supporting and improving APS employment opportunities for people with disability
  • Creating shared responsibility and ownership of the strategy across the APS
  • Limiting the need for additional agency administration burden
  • Having regard for budgetary constraints
  • Identifying opportunities for agencies to join up and work together
  • Driving long-term sustainable change
  • Creating a systematic and consistent approach.

The following initiatives should be considered as an integrated set of measures to be applied across all levels of the APS, including the Senior Executive Service.

Fostering inclusive cultures

In a 2010 speech at Victoria's Parliament House, Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes mentioned the 'soft bigotry of low expectations' encountered by people with disability.1 These words show the attitudinal challenges encountered by people with disability. They also remind us of the need to question our thinking and develop a better appreciation for what people with disability have to offer. If we don't do this employees with disability will feel disengaged
and undervalued and more inclined to seek employment opportunities elsewhere. Retention is a key issue for this strategy – it requires agencies to be disability confident and offer rewarding careers, in which people are encouraged to perform at their best.This section's initiatives are designed
to shift mindsets and change perceptions. To do this we need to make disability a part of everyday business activities so that rather than being an add-on or afterthought, it becomes the 'the way things are done around here'.

The Australian Public Service Commission will:

  • Review and where necessary enhance the commission's policy advice, products and services on managing mental health issues.
  • Encourage agencies to incorporate diversity messages into training and human resources processes and procedures.
  • Ask agencies to encourage the take-up of flexible working arrangements.
  • Develop an online career tool, My Career, My APS, for APS employees and members of the public, particularly those who have a disability, who are considering a job in the APS.
  • Establish a network for representatives from agencies' disability networks to provide agencies with opportunities to share experiences and learn from one another.

Increasing agency demand for candidates with disability

This section's initiatives are designed to stimulate demand for more employees with disability. Employer fears about hiring people with disability vary but can include concerns relating to lower level job qualifications, poor performance, reasonable adjustment costs and negative reactions from colleagues
and customers.2 While there is no research to back up these perceptions, they continue to exist and prevent people with disability from entering the APS workforce. The Australian Public Service Commission will:

  • Promote the value proposition and business case that disability and broader diversity has to offer.
  • Publish a plain-English guide to the Commissioner's Directions on employing people with disability via disability employment services providers.
  • Promote the use of work design as a tool to improve the work options for employees with disability.

Improving recruitment processes to enable more candidates with disability to enter the APS

We need to break the traditional 'recruitment mould' and give managers confidence to recruit a candidate with disability. Tightening budgets and time pressures will inevitably affect the degree to whicha manager will take 'risks' with a new recruit. However, it is only through first-hand experience
that managers come to appreciate that the management of an employee with disability is often just like managing an employee without disability.

This section's initiatives are designed to insert flexibility in recruitment processes. The Australian Public Service Commission will:

  • Implement a guaranteed interview scheme, whereby any candidate with disability who meets the minimum criteria for a job is interviewed.
  • Establish an APS employment pathway for people with disability so that the APS can further strengthen and develop its workforce.
  • Provide greater education for agency human resources personnel and hiring managers on how to apply flexibility to merit selection processes to meet the needs of people with disability and create level playing fields.
  • Ask agencies to review their procurement procedures to ensure suppliers and panels include disability employment providers.
  • Work with Disability Employment Australia to set up a working group consisting of a range of nationally based disability employment services providers, APS agencies and the National Disability Recruitment Coordinator, to identify and trial employment opportunities for people with disability.

Improving leadership

At the heart of change is leadership. Our leaders are stewards of our values – they communicate our priorities and encourage and reward us to perform our best.

This section's initiatives are designed to encourage leaders to respond to the challenges of disability employmentin the APS and drive changes to the way business is executed. The Australian Public Service Commission will:

  • Hold annual diversity awards to celebrate and recognise APS good practice.
  • Encourage agencies to include disability-related data in their internal reporting arrangements, such as scorecards and metrics.
  • Encourage agencies to assign champions to help strengthen and progress the disability agenda.
  • Provide greater support and guidance to disability champions.
  • Ask agencies to set clear expectations of managers and senior executive staff to build and foster a diverseworkforce.
  • Use the Diversity Council to help reinforce and reinvigorate the commitment from APS leaders to implement the disability agenda.

Summary of actions

Fostering inclusive cultures

The Australian Public Service Commission will:

  • Review and where necessary enhance the commission's policy advice, products and services on managing mental health issues.
  • Encourage agencies to incorporate diversity messages into training and human resources processes and procedures.
  • Ask agencies to encourage the take-up of flexible working arrangements.
  • Develop an online career tool, My Career, My APS, for APS employees and members of the public, particularly those who have a disability, who are considering a job in the APS.
  • Establish a network for representatives from agencies' disability networks to provide agencies with opportunities to share experiences and learn from one another.

Increasing agency demand for candidates with disability

The Australian Public Service Commission will:

  • Promote the value proposition and business case that disability and broader diversity has to offer.
  • Publish a plain-English guide to the Commissioner's Directions on employing people with disability via disability employment services providers.
  • Promote the use of work design as a tool to improve the work options for employees with disability.

Improving recruitment processes to enable more candidates with disability to enter the APS

The Australian Public Service Commission will:

  • Implement a guaranteed interview scheme, whereby any candidate with disability who meets the minimum criteria for a job is interviewed.
  • Establish an APS employment pathway for people with disability so that the APS can further strengthen and develop its workforce.
  • Provide greater education for agency human resources personnel and hiring managers on how to apply flexibility to merit selection processes to meet the needs of people with disability and create level playing fields.
  • Ask agencies to review their procurement procedures to ensure suppliers and panels include disability employment providers.
  • Work with Disability Employment Australia to set up a working group consisting of a range of nationally based disability employment services providers, APS agencies and the National Disability Recruitment Coordinator, to identify and trial employment opportunities for people with disability.

Improving leadership across the APS

The Australian Public Service Commission will:

  • Hold annual diversity awards to celebrate and recognise APS good practice.
  • Encourage agencies to include disability-related data in their internal reporting arrangements, such as scorecards and metrics.
  • Encourage agencies to assign champions to help strengthen and progress the disability agenda.
  • Provide greater support and guidance to disability champions.
  • Ask agencies to set clear expectations of managers and senior executive staff to build and foster a diverse workforce.
  • Use the Diversity Council to help reinforce and reinvigorate the commitment from APS leaders to action the disability agenda.

Footnotes

1 Speech made at the launch of the Action on Disability in Ethnic Communities (ADEC) DVD 'Can I Do It My Way' on 7 September 2010.

2 Lengnick-Hall M, Gaunt P, Kulkarni M, 'Overlooked and underutilized: People with disabilities are an untapped human resource', Human Resource Management, vol 47, no.2, summer 2008, pp. 255-273. Published online in Wiley InterScience <www.interscience.wiley.com>