Employing People with Disabilities - A guide to employer initiatives

In an era where diversity and inclusion are becoming of increasing importance to businesses and their customers, it is important to be aware of available initiatives that empower organisations to employ people with a disability. JobAccess is a key initiative currently being offered by the Australian Government.


What is JobAccess?

If you haven’t heard of JobAccess before, don’t fret. You are not the only one! According to a recent evaluation done by the Department of Social Services, many people with disabilities and businesses are not aware of JobAccess. You could even argue that JobAccess is one of Australia’s best-kept secret initiatives in supporting positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities - even when taking into account navigating the bureaucratic hurdles that come along with any government initiative. For the unaware, JobAccess is an Australian Government initiative aimed at both employees with disabilities and employers that aims to bring together information and resources to drive employment for people living with disabilities. It serves as a national hub for workplace and employment information for people with disabilities, employers, and service providers.


JobAccess & Employment Assistance Fund

A JobAccess policy that helps acts as an incentive is the ‘Employment Assistance Fund’ (EAF), in which the government reimburses the costs for making necessary workplace adjustments for employees who need them; such as buying accessibility equipment and modifying premises. However, to be eligible for the EAF, the employee with a disability must meet the necessary criteria, namely:

  • Be an Australian resident/citizen with the exception of having either a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) or a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV);

  • Be working in a job, which is expected to continue for at least 13 weeks;

  • Work at least 8 hours a week, and;

  • Have a disability that has lasted or will at least last for 2 years, which impacts on their ability to work

JobAccess & Wage Subsidies

Another JobAccess incentive is the existence of wage subsidies. These subsidies provide a financial incentive for employers to offer ongoing employment to people with disabilities. There are numerous types of wage subsidies with all of them requiring that the employer:

  • Have an ABN

  • Hire a Disability Employment Services (DES) jobseeker;

  • Has not previously received a wage subsidy for the same job;

  • Has not retrenched or reduced the number of workers employed and have no plans to do so;

  • Is not a business that would bring the wage subsidy and Commonwealth Government into disrepute, and;

  • Is not currently receiving another government wage subsidy for the person OR the job.

Both the ‘Wage Start’ and ‘Wage Subsidy Scheme’ are types of wage subsidies offered through JobAccess. The key distinction between them is that the former only applies to long-term unemployed or those who have been offered ongoing employment through a Youth PaTH internship (we’ll explore this further later in this article), as well as the job being offered having a minimum of 15 hours a week over 26 weeks. If successful in applying for the Wage Start subsidy, the employer could receive up to $6,000 to aid them in financing salary for their new employee.

The latter initiative, the ‘Wage Subsidy Scheme’ is aimed at DES jobseekers, where their employment involves a minimum of 8 hours per week, for at least 13 weeks. If their application for this subsidy is successful, the employer could receive up to $1,600. However, it is worth noting that this subsidy only applies for new employees commencing with the business - it is not meant to be used for current employees that have a disability.


Internships


Australian Network on Disability’s ‘Stepping Into’ Internship

The Australian Network on Disability (AND), a non-for-profit group has a paid internship program specifically designed for uni students. For a person with a disability to be eligible for this internship, they must:

  • Be in their last or next to last year of university studies in a relevant degree;

  • Have a disability and be registered with their uni’s disability support services;

  • Not have their studies deferred;

  • Have working wights (Australian Government roles only accept Australian Citizens), and;

  • Be committed to be involved in the ‘Stepping Into’ Internship Program

If you are interested, you can find available internships here. Applications for the ‘Stepping Into’ initiative can be made at: https://www.and.org.au/pages/apply.html


For employers who are interested in offering internships for people with disabilities via AND’s ‘Stepping Into’ initiative, you must:

  • Pay AND a fee of $3,900 (plus GST) per intern OR be either an annual Silver ($6,930) or Gold ($11,550) member. More information on AND membership can be found here (the fees do not include the wages of the intern).

  • Check the references of AND ‘Stepping Into’ applicants

  • Provide training to successful applicants


Internships are meant to be offered at a minimum of 152 hours, which can be delivered either in a four-week block or flexibly.


Youth PaTH internship

The ‘Youth PaTH internship’ involves a person aged between 17-24, as well as being on income support and being registered with one of the following:

  • JobActive scheme

  • Transition to Work scheme

  • Disability Employment Services provider

The ‘Youth PaTH internship’ involves volunteering for 4-12 weeks at a host business, enabling a potential employer to see if a candidate is a good fit for their organisation. As part of this internship, the potential employee also gets a payment of $200/fortnight extra on top of their regular income support.

As we’ve explored, JobAccess offers a wealth of support for employers looking for quality staff, and for employees with a disability who are looking to engage in the workforce. For further information about what JobAccess can offer you or your business, please visit their website at https://www.jobaccess.gov.au/.


Karen Ansen Consulting is committed to creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. Connect with us at enquiries@karenansen.com to learn more.