D.D.A. guide: Earning a living

A person with a disability has a right to the same employment opportunities as a person without a disability.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) makes it against the law for an employer to discriminate against someone on the grounds of disability.

What should employers do?

Employers must offer equal employment opportunities to everyone. This means that if a person with a disability can do the essential activities or "inherent requirements" of a job, he or she should have just as much chance to do that job as anyone else.

For example, an essential activity or "inherent requirement" for a telephonist's job is the ability to communicate by telephone. But it is not an "inherent requirement' to hold the phone in the hand.

Employers should choose the best person for the job, whether that person has a disability or not. They should make this decision based on a person's ability to perform the essential activities of the job. They should not make assumptions about what a person can or cannot do because of a disability.

People with a disability are protected against discrimination in:

  • Recruitment processes such as advertising, interviewing, and other selection processes
  • Decisions on who will get the job
  • Terms and conditions of employment such as pay rates, work hours and leave
  • Promotion, transfer, training or other benefits associated with employment, or
  • Dismissal or any other detriment, such as demotion or retrenchment.

The DDA also covers contract work, and membership of partnerships of three or more people, as well as discrimination by:

  • Bodies with control over professional, trade or occupational qualifications
  • Federally registered trade unions, and
  • Employment agencies.

For example, it is unlawful for an employment agency not to refer a person with a disability to a job if he or she can do the job.

What about workplace changes?

If a person with a disability is the best person for the job then the employer must make workplace changes or "workplace adjustments" if that person needs them to perform the essential activities of the job.

In most cases the person with a disability will be able to tell the employer what is needed. If necessary, employers should also seek advice from government agencies or organisations which represent or provide services to people with a disability.

Examples of "workplace adjustments" employers may need to make include:

  • Changing recruitment and selection procedures. For example, providing a sign language interpreter for a deaf person, or ensuring the medical assessor is familiar with a person's particular disability and how it relates to the job requirements.
  • Modifying work premises. For example, making ramps, modifying toilets, providing flashing lights to alert people with a hearing loss.
  • Changes to job design, work schedules or other work practices. For example, swapping some duties among staff, regular meal breaks for a person with diabetes.
  • Modifying equipment. For example, lowering a workbench or providing an enlarged computer screen.
  • Providing training or other assistance. For example, induction programs for staff with a disability and co-workers, mentor or support person for a person with an intellectual disability, including staff with a disability in all mainstream training.

What if changes are too difficult for the employer?

The DDA does not require workplace changes to be made if this will cause major difficulties or unreasonable costs to a person or organisation. This is called "unjustifiable hardship".

Before considering claiming that adjustments are unjustified, employers need to:

  • Thoroughly consider how an adjustment might be made
  • Discuss this directly with the person involved, and
  • Consult relevant sources of advice.

If adjustments cause hardship it is up to the employer to show that they are unjustified.

More detailed information on employment is also available on the Commission website

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