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Employers of people with a disability

There are many reasons why employing a person with a disability will be beneficial to your organisation. In addition, there are a number of programs to provide you with support and guidance.

There are many benefits to employing a person with a neuromuscular condition. Research has found that employees with a disability are likely to bring new skills and valuable perspectives to the workplace. Workers with a disability generally have lower rates of absenteeism and stay longer in a job resulting in reduced turnover, recruitment and training costs. Customers are also more loyal to businesses that demonstrate inclusion and diversity. On average employing a person with a disability does not cost any more than employing a person without a disability.

This section provides information about:

Interviewing a person with a neuromuscular condition

People with a neuromuscular do not need to disclose that they have a disability at the time of applying for a job, in order to avoid potential discrimination. Because of this, it is recommended that you ask all applicants you are intending to interview whether they require any adjustments or assistance to participate in the interview.

Members of the recruitment and selection panels should be aware of disability, access and inclusion requirements and reasonable adjustments. The Australian Human Rights Commission have developed a Step-by-Step Guide to Preventing Discrimination in Recruitment that covers a range of ways an employer can ensure their recruitment process is accessible and fair to all people, including people with disability.

Finally, it is important that you ask the same questions to a person with a disability as you would to a person without a disability. Ensure the questions you ask address the requirements of the position and not focus on a person’s disability.

What can I ask a person about their disability?

According to the Department of Social Services, the only questions an employer can lawfully ask about a disability relate to:

  • Any adjustments required to ensure a fair and equitable interview/selection process.
  • How the person will perform the inherent requirements of a job.
  • Any adjustments that may be required to complete the inherent requirements of the job.

Any other questions about an individual’s disability are inappropriate, including questions about:

  • How the individual acquired their disability
  • Specific details of the individual’s disability.

Remember, a person with a disability has no legal obligation to disclose a disability unless it is likely to affect their performance in a role.

Job Access has an Employers Toolkit with a range of factsheets and can provide specific advice on supporting people with a disability through the interview process.

Employing a person with a neuromuscular condition

Employing a person with a neuromuscular may seem daunting. However, research highlights a number of benefits organisations have achieved through employing people with a disability. Communication is the key to achieving these benefits. Barriers to open communication occur when people are concerned that they will embarrass themselves or a person with a neuromuscular condition by saying or doing the wrong thing. Though these concerns usually come from a good place, it is unnecessary. The most important thing to remember is to treat each person with respect.

It is important to remember that everyone is different and will have their own preferences. When communicating with a person with disability, you should ask the person what works for them, and respect their wishes.

The most important communication tip is to focus on the person, not their neuromuscular condition.

Currently, person-first language is the most widely accepted terminology, this includes using “person with disability”, “people with disability”, “person with a lived experience of disability” or “person living with a disability.”

It may also be helpful to understand more about a person-specific neuromuscular condition. Please see the information on a range of neuromuscular conditions on this site. Otherwise, please contact your local neuromuscular organisation for further information.

Workplace adjustments

Previously referred to as a 'reasonable adjustment', a workplace adjustment is a change to a work process, practice, procedure or environment that enables an employee with a disability to perform their job in a way that minimises the impact of their disability.

Workplace adjustments allow a person to:

  • perform the essential requirements of their job safely in the workplace
  • have equal opportunity in recruitment processes, promotion and ongoing development
  • experience equitable terms and conditions of employment
  • maximise productivity

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA), employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate an individual’s disability, unless that adjustment would result in unjustifiable hardship.

What is 'reasonable' when making adjustments?

Under the DDA, an adjustment is considered reasonable unless it causes “unjustifiable hardship” to the employer or organisation. Unjustifiable hardship could be in the form of financial cost, an amendment to the physical building that is not possible due to council or other restrictions, or an adjustment that would disadvantage other employees.

There are a number of factors to take into account when considering whether an adjustment is reasonable:

  • The effectiveness of the adjustment in assisting the employee with a neuromuscular condition to perform their job
  • The practicality of the adjustment
  • The extent of any disruption caused to business operations
  • The financial or other costs of the adjustment
  • The extent of the organisation’s financial and other resources
  • The availability of financial or other assistance to help make the adjustment (e.g. the Employment Assistance Fund)
  • The nature of business activities and size of the organisation

The Australian Disability Network provides more information on workplace adjustments and some examples.

Job Access provides funding through the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) to undertake free workplace assessments and the costs of making workplace changes. These changes may include the addition of ramps’, widening of doorways, provision of modified equipment or the use of specialised services such as Auslan. These changes will be specific to an individual and organizations needs are highlighted through the assessment process.

Work Health and Safety considerations

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace for all employees. Having a person with a disability employed in your organisation does not change that requirement or necessarily increase your responsibility or costs. Specific information about employers’ responsibilities to provide safe workplaces can be accessed at the Safe Work Australia website.

Accessibility Action Plans

Accessibility Action Plans (AAP), also known as Disability Action Plans, outline an organisation’s intention to eliminate discrimination and encourage inclusion.

The Plan details how an organisation is making its workplace, products and services accessible to people with disability, and informs the public how it is approaching diversity and inclusion.

An Accessibility Action Plan can also reduce the likelihood of discrimination complaints and the costs that accompany this. The Australian Human Rights Commission has more information about action plans and resources to help you develop an action plan.

Programs and services to help you employ and support a person with a neuromuscular condition in the workplace

There are a number of programs and services that support both a person with a neuromuscular and an employer to achieve the many benefits employing a person with a disability can bring. Job Access is an information and advice hub funded by the Australian Government. Job Access offers help and workplace solutions for people with a disability and their employers. The Job Access hub has a range of programs and services that may assist you in employing a person with a disability:

Financial support

There are a number of programs that can assist you as an employer, to support a person with a disability to keep a job. These include:

  • WorkAssist – this is delivered through a DES provider and provides assistance on job redesign, workplace assessments, advice on workplace modification or equipment and other types of support in the workplace.
  • National Work Experience Program – Employers may be interested in providing work experience placements to people with a disability. This allows people with a disability the chance to show how they will operate in a work environment. It provides an opportunity for employers to see their capabilities.
  • Community Development Program – helps employers find the right person, including people with a disability, for their workplace.
  • National Disability Coordination Officer Program – NDCO’s work with DES providers, JobActive providers and employer groups to identify barriers to employment and education and ways to address these barriers.

Workplace modifications

The Australian Governments Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) provides funding to employers to make changes to a workplace to better support an employee with a disability. These changes can be changes to the physical environment, equipment or accessing services such as Auslan support.

Wage subsidies

Wage subsidies are financial incentives paid to employers to offer ongoing employment to people with a disability. The idea is to provide people with a disability the opportunity to prove their worth to an organisation. The subsidy is available for the first few months of employment, provided the employer intends to offer the job seeker sustainable, ongoing employment.

Supported wage system

Most people with a disability are able to perform their job at the same capacity as any other employee and therefore receive full pay. However, sometimes a person’s disability can impact on their productivity. The supported wage systems allows employers to match a person’s wage with their productivity level.

Disabled Australian Apprenticeship Wage Support

JobAccess provides employers of eligible apprentices with a disability with a payment, under the Disabled Australian Apprenticeship Wage Support program.

Employer Resources

There are a number of tools and resources that assist employers to employ and support people with a disability.

Job Access Resources

There are a number of factsheets that can be downloaded from the Job Access website, these include:

  • Accessibility checklist for employers
  • Available services and programs for employers
  • Employing people with a disability
  • Funding available for employers

Australian Network on Disability

The Australian Network on Disability is a national, membership-based, for-purpose organisation that makes it easier for organisations to welcome people with disability in all aspects of business. There are a number of useful resources and a range of factsheets to download, including;

  • Positive Action towards Career Engagement (PACE) Mentoring
  • Stepping Into
  • Economic Benefits of Improved Employment Outcomes
  • Business benefits of hiring people with a disability
  • Australian Disability Workforce Report

Employer Education

The Australian Network on Disability additionally offers a range of Disability Confidence courses that assist employers in feeling comfortable and able to create inclusive environments in the workplace, also taking into account legislation and risk management. There are a number of courses available including

  • Disability Confidence training
  • Welcoming Customers with Disability
  • Confident Conversations for Mentally-Healthy Teams
  • Lunch and Learn

Community Resource Unit – Inclusive Employment Factsheets

These resources have been developed to help young people get their first job. Factsheets include:

  • Top Tips for Interviews
  • Questions to Ask Your Interviewer
  • Networking on LinkedIn
  • ‘Plan For Success’ Videos
  • Sharing Your Disability Information

Acknowledgment of Country

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We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognize their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.