WORKability 2: executive summary

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  • WORKability 2: SOLUTIONS
    Final report of the National Inquiry into Employment and Disability

    Executive Summary

    People with disability represent a significant proportion of Australia's working age population (16.6%), yet they participate in the workforce at lower rates, they are less likely to be employed when they do attempt to participate, and they will earn less if they do get a job.This has been the case for a long time and the problem is not just ongoing, it seems to be getting worse.1]

    The National Inquiry into Employment and Disability (the Inquiry) was launched on 4 March 2005 to address this important issue.

    The Inquiry's interim report - WORKability I: Barriers - makes it abundantly clear that people with disability face higher barriers to participation and employment than many other groups in Australian society.

    This final report - WORKability II: Solutions - focuses on how to address these barriers and ensure equality of opportunity for people with disability in the open workplace.

    WORKability I: Barriers identified three sets of obstacles facing people with disability and their actual or potential employers:

    1. Information - an absence of easily accessible and comprehensive information and advice that assists in decision making processes and responds to ongoing needs
    2. Cost - concern about costs of participation for people with disability and possible costs borne by employers when employing a person with disability
    3. Risk - concern about any possible financial and personal impact on people with disability and their employers, especially if a job does not work out.

    These obstacles were evident through all stages of the employment process: getting ready for the open workplace,2] recruitment and selection,3] and job retention.4]

    Further, the absence of clear information appears to have exacerbated the other two barriers by making it extremely difficult to distinguish between perceived and real costs and risks. For example, employers cite an increased risk of workers compensation claims as a major barrier to employing people with disability, yet there is no evidence available to support this concern. Similarly, the cost of workplace accommodations is often mentioned as a significant concern despite evidence from the United States suggesting that most modifications cost under US$500.

    WORKability II: Solutions makes a series of recommendations to address the myriad of barriers identified in WORKability I: Barriers. These recommendations must be considered in a holistic manner. For example, there is little point in asking people with disability to participate in the open workplace if there are no jobs to go to, or the expenses of participation are higher than the wages earned, or there is inadequate access to the supports needed by employers and employees to ensure that the job can be done properly.

    The primary responsibility for addressing the barriers for people with disability in the open workplace falls on government. It is for this reason that Commonwealth, State and Territory government services and programs are the subject of many of the recommendations discussed in this report. It is also the reason that WORKability II: Solutions recommends that the Commonwealth government lead the development of a National Disability Employment Strategy for Australia.

    Commonwealth, State and Territory governments must work together to create a level playing field for people with disability in the open workplace. To increase participation and employment of people with disability, governments must provide the supports, services and incentives that ensure that people with disability have true equality of opportunity.

    Governments must also provide leadership to the private sector, and the community at large, by improving public sector employment practices and developing clear information strategies which address concerns about the costs and risks associated with people with disability as employees in the open workplace.

    However the private sector also has a role to play. Business peaks and individual corporations need to help government identify what needs to be done to lower the barriers to employing people with disability. And more employers are needed to pave the way and demonstrate the business case for hiring people with disability.

    In addition, public and private recruitment services, public and private workplace support services, public and private vocational education and training institutions, community groups representing people with disability and people with disability themselves have a role in bringing about the conditions that ensure equality of opportunity for people with disability.

    Designing a strategy to increase the participation and employment opportunities for people with disability is no small task. The process must be capable of addressing a wide range of issues in a coordinated manner.

    As set out in Recommendation 30, a National Disability Employment Strategy should focus on at least the following issues, as a matter of priority:

    • developing a whole-of-government approach to ensuring appropriate financial and practical support to people with disability, including a streamlined system to provide adequate:
      • income support;
      • transport, equipment and health care subsidies and concessions;
      • workplace supports and modifications; and
      • personal care in the home and workplace;
    • improving the effectiveness of government-funded employment service delivery to people with disability and employers (including recruitment assistance and access to supports on an as-needed basis);
    • improving transition-to-work schemes for people with disability in secondary, tertiary and vocational education and training institutions;
    • ensuring better relationships between private sector employers and government-funded information, recruitment and employment support services;
    • increasing recruitment and retention of people with disability in the public sector (at the Commonwealth, State, Territory and local government levels); and
    • developing a benchmarking, monitoring and reporting system to ensure accountability and ongoing improvement to the incentives, supports and services available to people with disability and employers.

    In addition to a general recommendation about developing a National Disability Employment Strategy, the Inquiry has made 29 specific recommendations which address many of the issues listed above. Those recommendations provide guidance on how to improve the current support system and employment environment for people with disability.

    Implementation of any one of those recommendations will be a positive step towards addressing the barriers facing people with disability and their actual or potential employers. However, they are unlikely to have any substantial impact if implemented in a piecemeal fashion.

    It is only when the barriers for people with disability and employers are simultaneously addressed in a holistic manner that we can hope to enjoy real increases in the participation and employment of people with disability in the Australian workplace.

    All parties in the employment process and all levels of government need to act cooperatively with each other to bring about a streamlined approach to increasing participation and employment rates of people with disability.

    The Inquiry therefore urges prompt implementation of the following 30 recommendations.

    Recommendations

    Recommendation 1: One-stop-information-shop

    The Inquiry recommends that the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations ensure that:

    (a) a one-stop-information-shop is launched by 1 July 2006;

    (b) the one-stop-information-shop is accessible to people with disability - this will require consideration of publication in a variety of formats;

    (c) the one-stop-information-shop includes, on launch, a 1800 number, TTY and email service that can respond to individual queries promptly;

    (d) the one-stop-information-shop 1800 number, TTY and email service is staffed by an adequate number of appropriately trained personnel;

    (e) the one-stop-information shop publishes its strategy to maintain, update and develop the service and invites users to make suggestions;

    (f) there are ongoing consultations with users, employers, employment services, community groups and people with disability regarding the development of the information site and advice service; and

    (g) there is wide promotion of the one-stop-information-shop to employers, employment services, relevant government agencies, community groups and people with disability.

    Recommendation 2: Map government services

    The Inquiry recommends ongoing Commonwealth, State and Territory interagency consultations with a view to developing up-to-date information regarding:

    (a) the government programs available to employers and people with disability;

    (b) the relationships between various government agencies and programs; and

    (c) the outcomes of those programs.

    The Inquiry recommends that this information be incorporated into the one-stop-information-shop (see Recommendation 1).

    Recommendation 3: Research into costs

    The Inquiry recommends that the Productivity Commission research the economic cost of disability to:

    (a) people with different disabilities participating in the open workplace;

    (b) employment services assisting people with different disabilities; and

    (c) large, medium and small businesses employing people with different disabilities

    with a view to making recommendations to increase participation and employment of people with disability.

    Recommendation 4: International approaches to providing supports and subsidies

    The Inquiry recommends further research into the following international support and subsidy programs (including collection of any program evaluation reports, cost analyses and changes in participation and employment rates):

    (a) the Job Support, Training Support, Self Start and Mainstream programs in New Zealand; and

    (b) the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities in Canada

    with a view to improving the program of support, assistance and incentives in Australia.

    Recommendation 5: Case management

    The Inquiry recommends investigation into making case management available to people with disability throughout the job readiness, recruitment and retention stages of the employment process. The purpose of such case management would be to ensure coordination of all services and supports across all levels of government.

    Recommendation 6: Cost of disability allowance

    The Inquiry recommends reconsideration of the McClure Report's recommendation regarding simplification of welfare payments and the introduction of a cost of disability allowance which takes into account the varying needs of people with different disabilities.

    Recommendation 7: Cost of participation allowance

    The Inquiry recommends reconsideration of the McClure Report's recommendation regarding simplification of welfare payments and the introduction of a cost of participation allowance which takes into account the varying needs of people with different disabilities who participate in the workplace.

    Recommendation 8: Health concessions

    The Inquiry recommends extending eligibility for health care concessions for people with disability who enter the workforce.

    Recommendation 9: Mobility Allowance

    The Inquiry recommends that the Commonwealth government increase the Mobility Allowance to allow reimbursement of the cost of transport to and from the workplace.

    Recommendation 10: Transport concessions

    The Inquiry recommends further investigation into the need to extend eligibility for transport concessions for people with disability. The investigations should include a focus on:

    (a) the cost of transport for people with different disabilities;

    (b) the additional costs that may be incurred because of participation in the open workplace;

    (c)the impact of transport costs on participation in the open workplace; and

    (d) alternate solutions to fund additional travel costs for people with disability in the event that travel concessions are not extended.

    Recommendation 11: Workplace Modifications Scheme

    The Inquiry recommends that the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations ensure that its revision of the Workplace Modifications Scheme include the following features:

    (a) eligibility for any employee with disability, whether or not the person is referred by a government-funded employment service or working on a full-time, part-time or casual basis;

    (b) eligibility for people with disability who are working from home, self-employed or who engage in consultancy or contract work;

    (c) expansion of the types of modifications covered by the scheme;

    (d) increased funding for modifications;

    (e) facility to take certain equipment funded by the Workplace Modifications Scheme to a new workplace;

    (f) simplified application process; and

    (g) wide promotion of the scheme to employers, employment services and people with disability.

    Recommendation 12: Employer tax incentives

    The Inquiry recommends research into the structure and effectiveness of international tax incentives to encourage employment of people with disability, with a view to determining the appropriateness of such incentives in Australia .

    Recommendation 13: Occupational health and safety, industrial relations and disability discrimination laws

    The Inquiry recommends development of the following strategies to address concerns about the potential financial impact of, and legal risks created by, occupational health and safety laws, disability discrimination laws, industrial relations laws, and the interaction between those laws, on employers who hire people with disability:

    (a) government-sponsored personal and workplace assessments (which also recommend risk management strategies);

    (b) a government-sponsored trial program that simultaneously covers insurance premiums and ensures the collection, analysis and dissemination of reliable data about the true impact of those laws on employers;

    (c) engagement of State workers compensation authorities in disseminating information and developing disability employment strategies;

    (d) capacity building for employment service providers; and

    (e) a multifaceted awareness raising campaign through 'myth buster' fact sheets, 'how to' information sheets and business-to-business promotion.

    Recommendation 14: Safety net options

    The Inquiry recommends ongoing consultation regarding the proposed 'Welfare-to-Work' reforms in the 2005 Budget in order to:

    (a) determine the financial impact of participation in the workplace on people with disability over an extended period of time; and

    (b) explore further ways of reducing the risk of returning to or entering the open workplace for people with disability.

    Recommendation 15: Work trials

    The Inquiry recommends that the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations develop robust government-supported work trial schemes that benefit employers and people with disability.

    The following issues should be addressed in developing such schemes:

    (a) the purpose of the work trial scheme (is it to fill a job vacancy, provide a training opportunity or provide work experience?);

    (b) eligibility for the work trial;

    (c) a mechanism to define the rights, obligations and expectations of all parties before, during and on completion of the work trial;

    (d) length of the work trial;

    (e) payment during the work trial (how much and by whom);

    (f) insurance coverage during the work trial;

    (g) supports provided to employers and people with disability prior to and during the work trial;

    (h) employer obligations at the end of the work trial;

    (i) agencies to run and support work trials; and

    (j) a strategy to encourage participation by employers and people with disability in work trials.

    Recommendation 16: Transition-to-work schemes

    The Inquiry recommends consideration of the following measures to improve transition-to-work schemes, as a matter of priority:

    (a) ongoing consultation and cooperation between Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to ensure more coordinated work placement support when students with disability are transiting from secondary, tertiary and vocational education and training institutions to the workplace;

    (b) improvements to the Disability New Apprentice Wage Support (DNAWS) scheme, including increased funding;

    (c) provision of appropriate supports for work experience, traineeship and apprenticeship schemes (including the New Apprenticeship Access Program (NAAP) and the School-based New Apprenticeships Program (SNAP));

    (d) availability of a case manager to ensure successful transition and assist with the planning, funding and organisation of any necessary supports and modifications;

    (e) clearer pathways from secondary, tertiary and vocational education and training institutions to government-funded employment service providers; and

    (f) public sector leadership in recruiting people with disability into work experience, traineeship and apprenticeship schemes.

    Recommendation 17: Government-funded employment support services

    The Inquiry recommends a review of the employment support services offered by the Commonwealth government, with a view to ensuring availability of appropriate support services to any employee with disability and his or her employer.

    In conducting the review, the Inquiry recommends consideration of the following issues:

    (a) providing access to support services on an as-needed basis, without time limitations;

    (b) ensuring a holistic assessment process;

    (c) increasing the scope of services available to employees with disability and their employers;

    (d) improving coordination between support service providers to ensure access to the required range of supports; and

    (e) increasing funding for Disability Open Employment Services, Job Network and vocational rehabilitation services to provide the appropriate employment support services.

    Recommendation 19: Flexible workplace

    The Inquiry recommends the creation of an inter-sector coalition focussed on developing guidelines and strategies for promoting workplaces that can respond to the varying needs of different employees. The coalition might include groups representing people with disability, ageing workers, parents and carers as well as unions, employment services, employer peaks and relevant government agencies.

    Recommendation 20: Employment services

    The Inquiry recommends that the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations engage in:

    (a) ongoing consultation with employment service providers, employers and people with disability regarding the delivery of high quality employment services at all stages of the employment process;

    (b) the collection, analysis and publication of qualitative and quantitative data regarding the impact of case based funding on the provision of employment services to people with disability and employers; and

    (c) the collection, analysis and publication of qualitative and quantitative data regarding the impact of capping on Disability Open Employment Service places for those on the Disability Support Pension wishing to enter the workforce.

    Recommendation 21: Mental illness

    The Inquiry recommends that the Commonwealth government facilitate:

    (a) consultation, research and development of measures that address the recruitment and employment support needs of people with mental illness; and

    (b) prompt implementation of those measures through a national mental health employment strategy.

    Recommendation 22: Personal assistance at home and in the workplace

    The Inquiry recommends increased funding, improved coordination and streamlined access to personal assistance at home and in the workplace for people with disability participating in:

    (a) full-time, part-time or casual employment;

    (b) self-employment; and apprenticeships, traineeships and work experience programs

    (c) with a view to ensuring the personal care necessary to meet employment or study obligations.

    Recommendation 23: Public sector leadership

    The Inquiry recommends that the Commonwealth government develop and introduce a comprehensive national strategy to increase public sector employment of people with disability.

    In developing the strategy the Commonwealth should consider the following actions:

    (a) collecting national statistics regarding employment of people with disability at all levels of government;

    (b) analysing the reasons for low recruitment rates in the public sector;

    (c) examining strategies currently employed by Commonwealth, State, Territory and local government agencies to increase the recruitment and retention of people with disability;

    (d) introducing target employment figures and an internal accountability mechanism for failure to meet those targets;

    (e) creating apprenticeship, traineeship and work experience opportunities for people with disability;

    (f) introducing a comprehensive support and capacity building program for employees with disability and their public sector employers;

    (g) creating a separate fund to provide support to government agencies to employ people with disability and cover any additional costs incurred;

    (h) providing specific financial and practical assistance to Departmental heads in order to address any perceived, or real, costs and risks associated with hiring people with disability; and

    (i) examining the appropriateness of the Australian Public Service employment strategy regarding Indigenous employment, for adaptation to people with disability.5]

    Recommendation 25: Reporting scheme for employers

    The Inquiry recommends that the Commonwealth government coordinate the collection of annual statistics from private sector and public sector employers regarding the employment of people with disability, and ensure their publication.

    Recommendation 26: Best practice awards scheme for employers

    The Inquiry recommends introduction of a widely promoted national scheme of employer awards which ensures:

    (a) publication of best practice models regarding recruitment and retention of people with disability;

    (b) a mechanism to actively share best practice amongst the business community; and

    (c) promotion of the benefits of employing people with disability to the business community.

    The Inquiry recommends that the awards scheme be administered by the business leadership project (see Recommendation 29).

    Recommendation 27: Recruitment agencies

    The Inquiry recommends that the recruitment industry pursue an agenda that:

    (a) establishes a diversity charter;

    (b) establishes a repository of available information on diversity best practice;

    (c) develops guidelines on recruitment practices which ensure equality of opportunity for people with disability;

    (d) influences the make up of selection panels by incorporating diversity into recruitment panels; and

    (e) promotes education of employer clients regarding the employment of people with disability.

    The Inquiry further recommends that public and private sector employers use recruitment agencies that have adopted policies and practices designed to encourage hiring of people with disability.

    Recommendation 28: Multi-sector leadership coalition

    The Inquiry recommends that the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations coordinate an ongoing multi-sector leadership coalition, including:

    (a) people with disability and disability peaks;

    (b) employers and employer peaks;

    (c) employment service providers and service peaks; and

    (d) relevant Commonwealth, State and Territory government agencies

    with a view to monitoring and developing strategies to improve employment opportunities for people with disability.

    Recommendation 29: Business leadership project

    The Inquiry recommends that the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, in cooperation with employer organisations, develop a business leadership project.

    The project should incorporate the following minimum features:

    (a) a flexible package of funding to provide incentives to businesses to engage in proactive recruitment and retention strategies regarding people with disability; and

    (b) specialised employer support and advice to maximise the success of those strategies.

    In designing the business leadership project, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations should analyse the effectiveness of its Corporate Leaders for Indigenous Employment Project and make any relevant improvements.[6]

    Recommendation 30: National Disability Employment Strategy

    The Inquiry recommends that the Commonwealth government lead the development of a National Disability Employment Strategy, in cooperation with the multi-sector coalition (see Recommendation 28), with a view to ensuring increased participation, recruitment and retention of people with disability in Australia .

    Without limiting the scope of such a strategy, the Inquiry recommends that the strategy focus on at least the following issues as a matter of priority:

    (a) developing a whole-of-government approach to ensuring appropriate financial and practical support to people with disability, including a streamlined system to provide adequate:

    (i) income support;

    (ii) transport, equipment and health care subsidies and concessions;

    (iii) workplace supports and modifications; and

    (iv) personal care in the home and workplace;

    (b) improving the effectiveness of government-funded employment service delivery to people with disability and employers (including recruitment assistance and access to supports on an as-needed basis);

    (c) improving transition-to-work schemes for people with disability in secondary, tertiary and vocational education and training institutions;

    (d) ensuring better relationships between private sector employers and government-funded information, recruitment and employment support services;

    (e) increasing recruitment and retention of people with disability in the public sector (at the Commonwealth, State, Territory and local government levels); and

    (f) developing a benchmarking, monitoring and reporting system to ensure accountability and ongoing improvement to the incentives, supports and services available to people with disability and employers.


    [1] See Issues Paper 1 setting out the detailed statistics at: www.humanrights.gov.au/disability_rights/employment_inquiry/papers/issue...