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D.D.A. guide: Earning a living

Disability Disability Rights
Friday 14 December, 2012


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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