The Disability Royal Commission (DRC) has raised questions about why there has been no increase in employment opportunities for people with disabilities. This blog will explore the key recommendations advocated for by people with disabilities and other related parties as to how employment opportunities and workplace rights can be better realised. To examine the recommendations more closely, let’s break them down into the following categories: Education, Organisational, Incentives, and Policy Mechanisms.
As highlighted in our previous blog on barriers to employment for people with disabilities, negative assumptions about people with disabilities exist in relation to employment. Hence, there is a need to educate and demystify the inability of people with disabilities to be involved, productive contributors within the workforce. This is not limited to addressing the common misunderstanding that there is a significant cost in making the necessary workplace adjustments when hiring people with disabilities, despite there being long-term evidence highlighting that the majority of people with disabilities do not need significant adjustments.
In business, there is always room for improvement. Raised in the Disability Royal Commission are some practical recommendations made by people with disabilities as to what they think can be done to help improve the employment of those with a disability.
One person commented that when it comes to recruitment, job advertisements need to be offered in Easy Read form as well as being accessible for screen reading software and containing inclusive language. Another person mentioned that in interviews, if possible, an employee with a disability ought to be on the interview panel. When interviewing a person with a disability and there is a concern in relation to doing the job, it is recommended to ask the person with a disability about the concern directly, as it might actually not be an issue.
Finally, another person made numerous recommendations, including that:
All senior staff, as opposed to solely being the responsibility of HR management, ought to be accountable for promoting workplace inclusion
When it comes to career development and opportunities for promotion, there ought to be personalised support for people with disabilities, and;
When developing policies and strategies affecting people with disabilities, the relevant staff ought to consult people with disabilities and involve them in the process, as opposed to taking a top-down approach.
While government policies exist that incentivise hiring people with disabilities, the rate of employment for people with disabilities remains static, highlighting that there needs to be a greater emphasis on incentives. One incentive recommended is the use of mandatory quotas, which will be supported by tax breaks. It has been suggested that this could operate as a mechanism to ensure that people with disabilities are a critical group to engage with when promoting employment opportunities, rather than being perceived as an afterthought.
Also, there needs to be more awareness and funding of ‘JobAccess’, arguably one of Australia’s best-kept secret initiatives in driving employment for people with disabilities. JobAccess is a Department of Social Services initiative aimed at both employees with disabilities and employers in ensuring that people with disabilities enter the workforce. JobAccess provides advice, support, and funding to businesses to help drive employment for people with disabilities, but research shows that very few Australian businesses are aware of this initiative.
Government policy is everywhere, from Medicare to taxation. The DRC has raised that to help improve the employment of people with disabilities, existing government policies either have to be reformed or implemented.
It was noted by the Commissioners involved that there is no Disability Standard featuring minimum compliance measures in relation to employment, despite such standards being utilised for education, transportation, and accessible premises. However, what many may not be aware of is that a draft for Disability Standards for Employment DOES exist and has yet to be implemented, despite existing for an astonishing 25 years.
Ben Gauntlett, the Australian Human Rights Disability Discrimination Commissioner stated that there ought to be an implementation of the ‘Willing to Work’ report, with a key recommendation involving reforming the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) to report on disability related initiatives. The WGEA is a statutory body which requires organisations that have at least 100 employees to issue a report addressing gender related initiatives. Currently, it is optional for organisations to have a Disability Action Plan to lodge to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Ultimately, if employment outcomes for people with disabilities are to improve, then the people who are affected by these outcomes should be consulted and their experiences and recommendations should be taken into account when devising strategies to tackle these issues.