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National Inquiry on Employment and Disability Interim Report: chapter 6

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  • National Inquiry on Employment and Disability
    Interim Report:

    6.
    Job retention in the open workplace

    6.1 Introduction

    6.2
    How important is good job matching?

    6.3
    What ongoing support is available to employees and employers?

    6.3.1
    Encouraging disclosure of disability

    6.3.2
    Support through government-funded employment services

    6.3.3 Support through government-funded rehabilitation services (CRS)

    6.3.4 Support through the 'Jobs in Jeopardy' program

    6.3.5
    Support through mentoring programs

    6.3.6 Training for managers and work colleagues

    6.3.7 Support for people with mental illness

    6.3.8 Support for people with intellectual disabilities

    6.3.9 Support for people with vision impairments

    6.3.10 Support through easy access to information and experts

    6.4
    What training opportunities are available for career advancement?

    6.4.1 Accessible training for employees with disability

    6.4.2 Retraining for employees with acquired disability

    6.5 How important is a flexible workplace?

    6.5.1Reasons for a flexible workplace

    6.5.2 Conditions that may contribute to a flexible workplace

    6.6
    Conclusion

    6.1  
    Introduction

    Discussion about people with disability in the open workplace tends
    to focus on whether a person can find a job, rather than keep
    a job. While successfully obtaining a job is clearly the first step
    for a person seeking employment in the open workplace, it is only the
    first step.

    Creating the circumstances that maximise the likelihood of job retention
    is a vital element of the employment equation and has benefits for the
    employee, employer and society as a whole. From the employee's perspective,
    a stable job with possibilities for advancement can offer financial
    security, opportunities for social participation and contribution and
    strengthened self-esteem.[1]
    From the employer's perspective, job retention can reduce recruitment
    and induction training costs, provides continuity and increased morale
    in the organisation. From a general societal perspective, there is greater
    diversity in the workforce and less spending on welfare and job seeking
    services.

    As the Australian labour force becomes older, the number of people
    who acquire disabilities while in a job will continue to increase. Disabilities
    like vision impairment, hearing impairment and physical fragility will
    become increasingly common.[2]
    Further, if one takes into account that one in five Australians will
    suffer from mental illness during their lifetime, it is almost impossible
    to avoid ensuring that workplaces adapt to the needs that arise in such
    circumstances.[3]

    Thus when considering the issues surrounding job retention for people
    with disability, it important to remember that the employees in question
    will not always be people who have applied for a job with a disability.
    It is also important to think about the many people who acquire a disability
    while in a job (whether or not it is job related) and who may require
    some retraining, job reassignment or flexibility.

    Many people with disability report difficulties in retaining jobs or
    advancing within an organisation when they have a disability. This appears
    to be the case whether the person starts the job with a disability or
    acquires a disability while in employment (from a workplace accident
    or otherwise).

    On the flip side, it appears that one of the fears that employers have
    expressed is that employees with disability are less likely to remain
    in a position for an extended period of time.

    Some of these concerns and fears may be more about perception than
    reality. For example, Manpower Australia states that research shows
    that employee retention levels amongst people with disability are up
    to 73 per cent higher than the rest of the workforce.[4]
    Similarly, research by academics at Deakin University suggests that
    employees with disability tend to be more reliable employees.[5]

    Nevertheless, the submissions to the Inquiry identified a range of
    concerns regarding the retention of employees with disability. They
    also made suggestions for improvements to the workplace environment
    for people with disability.

    This section of the Interim Report therefore considers what factors
    might improve retention rates amongst employees with disability including:

    1.  Good job matching

    2.  On-going support in the workplace

    3.  Training for career advancement

    4.  Creation of a flexible workplace.

    While this Chapter focuses on the continuing employment of people with
    disability, the submissions and research highlight that the suggested
    changes to the workplace should lead to a better environment, and therefore
    higher retention, for all employees irrespective of disability. For
    example, good matching between a person's abilities and a particular
    job is fundamental to the retention of any employee. And workplace policies
    that allow flexible working hours for a person with an episodic mental
    illness would also provide better conditions for a working parent who
    also has emergencies from time to time.

    This section of the report deals with the factors that relate directly
    to the workplace. It does not deal with general factors such as access
    to appropriate health care, accommodation, carers, transport etc which
    may also impact on the length of time a person might stay in a job.
    For a summary discussion of these issues see Section 3 regarding participation
    of people with disabilities in the workplace.

    6.2 How important is good job matching?

    One of the main recommendations of the 2003 FaCS Review of the Employer
    Incentive Strategy
    was to 'improve job matching services to increase
    mainstream recruitment of people with disabilities.'
    [6]

    Research at Deakin University suggests that good job matching is one
    of the most important factors in an employer's decision to hire and
    retain a person:

    Employers want someone who can perform to standard in a job. Reliability
    and productivity were clearly important to their judgments about hiring
    and retaining a person with a disability.
    [7]

    Indeed, it is common sense that where a person's skills are well matched
    to the task required, there is a higher chance that the employment experience
    will be a long and happy one for both the employer and employee.

    That is not to say that a person should remain in one position throughout
    their working career in a particular organisation. As a person's strengths
    are identified they can be fostered and developed. Nor does it necessarily
    mean that there will be no need to make accommodations for persons with
    certain disabilities so that they can best use their strengths. But
    the key is to focus on a person's abilities, rather than his or her
    disabilities, because that is what both the employer and employee are
    most interested in.

    As discussed in Chapter 2 of this report, there is an argument that
    a business that focuses on good job matching will be a more efficient
    business in any event, and if that is the case it makes little difference,
    from an economic perspective, whether a person does or does not have
    a disability.[8]

    6.3 
    What ongoing support is available to employees
    and employers?

    Many submissions to the Inquiry suggest that job retention is strongly
    influenced by the availability of ongoing support and training in the
    workplace.[9]

    Every person's need for support changes over time. For example, people
    may acquire mental illness while in a job, have a car accident, a sporting
    injury, a workplace accident or just become older and less agile. A
    business that is eager to retain its employees throughout these life
    experiences will have systems in place to assist their employees through
    these events. And the only real difference between employees who acquire
    these problems while on the job and those who arrive to the workplace
    with disabilities is that in the latter case, the employer has advance
    notice.

    This section discusses the various ways that a workplace might provide
    skill-based or personal support for employees with disability, whether
    acquired or pre-existing.

    Some of the relevant considerations include:

    1.  Encouraging disclosure of disability

    2.  Support from government-funded employment services

    3.  Support from government-funded rehabilitation services

    4.  Support through the Jobs in Jeopardy Program

    5.  Support through mentoring programs

    6.  Training for managers and work colleagues

    7.  Support for people with mental illness

    8.  Support for people with intellectual disabilities

    9.  Support for people with vision impairments

    10.  Support through
    easy access to information and experts

    6.3.1 
    Encouraging disclosure of disability

    As discussed in Chapter 5, many people with disability, particularly
    people with mental illness are reluctant to disclose their disability
    to an employer. Employees may be afraid due to the stigma attached to
    the disability, or a fear that it may inhibit promotion possibilities
    or result in termination.[10]

    However, without disclosure of disability it is difficult for an employer
    to arranges for the appropriate accommodations and supports. Further,
    unexplained absences result in poor performance reviews which can then
    impact on promotion and retention.[11]

    One way to address this issue is to create a workplace environment
    that readily and openly accepts and supports the varying needs of all
    employees, be they physical or mental disabilities. Such an environment
    makes disclosure a less risky proposition and discrimination less likely.

    Ultimately, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA)
    provides a sanction for discrimination on the basis of a disclosed disability.
    However, often a complaint under the DDA marks the end of a good employment
    relationship rather than a step towards job retention. It is therefore
    more desirable to adopt an inclusive approach from the outset.

    6.3.2 
    Support through government-funded employment services

    As noted in Chapter 5, Disability Open Employment Services (DOES) and
    Job Network (JN) providers can offer varying degrees of on-the-job or off site training
    and support to help employees settle into and keep their job. They can
    also assist employers to obtain wage subsidies and funds for workplace
    modifications (see further Chapter 2). However, there is very little
    information about the precise nature, extent and quality of the support
    services provided by DOES and JN in practise.

    At the moment, people with disability who are assessed as being able
    to work more than 30 hours per week are streamlined by Centrelink (when
    making an income support determination) or a Work Capacity Assessor
    into two groups depending on the length of post-placement support required.

    People who are assessed as requiring less than 26 weeks of support in the workplace are referred to a Job Network or vocational rehabilitation service provider (see below) for recruitment and support services.

    People with disability who require more than 26 weeks support are referred
    to a DOES provider. At least in principle, support from a DOES provider
    is available for as long as required. However the number of funded places
    are capped and some submissions suggest serious inadequacies in the
    support services provided.

    From 1 July 2006, all people with disability seeking income support
    or assistance with finding employment will be assessed by a Comprehensive
    Work Capacity Assessor. These assessors will make determinations regarding:

    (a)  type
    and level of impairment;

    (b) work capacity
    (number of hours and wage level); and

    (c) a
    recommendation to Centrelink about the level of income support required
    (DSP or Enhanced Newstart - see Chapter 3).

    People who can work 15-29 hours and who require less than 26 weeks of post-placement support will continue to be directed to either a Job Network or vocational rehabilitation service provider. Those people who require between 26 weeks and two years support will be referred to a DOES provider. The number of places for people who can work 15-29 hours and who need less than two years support will not be capped, as is currently the case.

    However, from 1 July 2006, people with disability who want a job, but
    who require more than two years support will be referred to a DOES service
    provider and the funding for these long term support places will be
    capped. Those people assessed as capable of working less than 15 hours
    will also be referred to one of the capped DOES places.

    Several submissions indicate the importance of the disability expertise
    and ongoing long-term support provided by DOES compared with Job Network.[12]

    Some submissions suggest that the new model and timeframe of support
    provided by employment services will be insufficient to meet the needs
    of people with certain disabilities. For example, people with intellectual
    disabilities are likely to need support for long periods of time and
    people with mental illness are likely to need assistance on an episodic
    basis, and therefore over an unpredictable timeframe.

    Other submissions note that the assistance that comes with DOES is
    not available to people who acquire a disability in employment.[13] Nor are the services available to people with disability who find a job independently of a DOES (for example through a recruitment agency or job advertisement). The only time these people with disability are eligible for support from a DOES or vocational rehabilitation service provider is if they are at risk of losing their job for reasons related to their disability (the Jobs in Jeopardy program is discussed below).

    The absence of support impacts on both the employee with disability
    and his or her employer. The Mental Illness Fellowship of Victoria suggests
    that better access to ongoing support would be a major incentive for
    employers to hire and retain people with disability:

    The provision of post-placement, on the job support is probably the
    most important incentive. This includes training and support availability
    throughout the workplace tenure - not restricted to initial periods
    of training. It also includes the provision of education and support
    to employers and potentially other employees regarding mental illness.[14]

    6.3.3 
    Support through government-funded rehabilitation
    services (CRS)

    As discussed in Chapter 5, Commonwealth Rehabilitation Services Australia
    (CRS) aims to help people with an injury, health condition or specific
    disabilities to get back into work.

    The distinguishing feature of CRS, as compared to DOES and Job Network
    providers, is the focus on 'rehabilitation' for people who have been
    working but due to an injury (which results in, for example, an acquired
    brain injury or a physical disability) or illness (including mental
    illness), require assistance and support to get them back into the workplace.
    More specifically, CRS employs allied health professionals to assist
    people with their vocational rehabilitation needs.

    As with DOES and JN, it has been very difficult to identify the precise
    nature, extent and quality of the support services provided by CRS in
    practise.

    CRS states that it assists employers by offering free recruitment services
    and helping to ensure successful placements
    by:

    • using professional expertise to match clients' abilities with employer
      requirements;
    • providing workers capable of carrying out performance requirements;
    • providing the unique 'Work Training' opportunity which allows employers
      to gain first hand experience of clients;
    • providing Workers Compensation coverage while clients are on work
      training; and
    • supporting employers and successful applicants in the new role.[15]

    Many submissions note that there is inadequate rehabilitation support
    for people with mental illness.[16]

    6.3.4 
    Support through the 'Jobs in Jeopardy' program

    An employed person with disability who believes he or she is at risk
    of losing a job due to his or her disability or health condition, can
    approach Centrelink or a DOES or CRS service provider for assistance.

    A program called 'Jobs in Jeopardy' which is provided by DOES and CRS
    service providers, is available to employees where:>

    • it is reasonably likely that the employer will terminate that employment
      in the immediate future due to the employee's disability;
    • the termination will be lawful and based on a reasonable
      business decision by the employer; and
    • the provision of employment assistance will prevent
      the termination.

    The employee does not have to be a current or previous recipient of
    income support. Nor is it a requirement that the job was obtained through
    a government-funded employment service provider.

    Currently, DOES and CRS services are able to complete the required
    assessment for the Jobs in Jeopardy Program and forward this to Centrelink
    for confirmation of eligibility. From 1 July 2006 assessments will be
    conducted by Comprehensive Work Capacity Assessors.

    It may be difficult to access to support services
    through this program in practice, as it appears that there is no separate
    funding or place allocation for 'Jobs In Jeopardy'. As the total number
    of DOES places is currently capped, assistance may not be provided for
    a number of reasons including the inability of the service to meet the
    employee's needs or the inability of the service to immediately provide
    assistance. Further, CRS Australia has a limit of 10 per cent of program
    places for people not receiving income support.

    Thus it seems that assistance under the Jobs in Jeopardy
    Program is discretionary according to availability of service funding.
    No changes were announced in the May 20005 Budget regarding the Jobs
    in Jeopardy program.

    Blind Citizens Australia argues that there should be an expansion of
    the Jobs in Jeopardy program with an increased emphasis on equipment
    provision and retraining.[17]

    The 2005 Senate Committee Working for Australia Report also
    recommends that:

    [T]he Australian Government review the Jobs in Jeopardy program (to
    ensure improved access to this program), in terms of its use, eligibility
    criteria and effectiveness in assisting people with chronic illness
    to remain in employment.[18]

    6.3.5 
    Support through mentoring programs

    The Disability Discrimination Legal Centre (DDLC) in NSW suggests that:

    [T]here is a need to create a culture of mentoring in the workplace
    for people with a disability that involves informing employers about
    the importance of gaining, maintaining and developing work based skills
    for all employees. [19]

    Several submissions suggest that mentoring is a useful strategy for
    people with sensory impairments:

    Mentoring from industry professionals can give a tremendous amount
    of support to people with sensory impairments as they provide valuable
    advice and point to future career paths and directions.[20]

    DEAC argues that mentoring services should be provided by Disability
    Open Employment Services, and that current funding should be increased
    to allow this specialised service provision.[21]

    IBM and the National Australia Bank both participate in the 'Willing and Able Mentoring Program', an external national
    mentoring program for tertiary students with disability.'[22]

    6.3.6 
    Training for managers and work colleagues

    A large number of submissions comment on the importance of training
    managers and work colleagues of people with disability in order to ensure
    a supportive workplace.

    For example, the Welfare Rights Centre recommends:

    Education of the employer and co-workers of the types of disability
    and the possible consequences and support that they may need to be
    given to meet the needs of their colleague.[23]

    Training of staff can assist in integrating people with disability
    into the workplace.[24]
    It can also reduce the stigma surrounding a particular disability by
    helping colleagues understand its impact on an individual and provide
    strategies to address any special needs or concerns. The DDLC suggests
    that:

    employers must be educated as to the social dimensions of disability
    and the different ways in which the construction of disability negatively
    impacts on the ability of people with a disability to fully participate
    in the workplace. Educating employers and employees about the potential
    and the capabilities of people with a disability and their capacity
    to do a job as well as any other person without a disability will
    go a long way to reducing systemic prejudice.[25]

    Training can also assist employers who may not properly understand
    their legal rights and obligations in terms of reasonable adjustment
    and equal opportunity within the workplace.[26]

    6.3.7 
    Support for people with mental illness

    Many submissions highlight the special importance of ongoing support
    for employees with mental illness. For example, the Mental Illness Fellowship
    of Victoria state:

    Due to the episodic nature of mental illness, workers with a mental
    illness require the provision of ongoing and flexible support. This
    support needs to be responsive to changes in the individuals' condition
    and changes in workplace demands. Support is currently available for
    initial periods of work, but is less available after 3 months. Ideally
    this support ought be well integrated with clinical services who are
    also required to offer ongoing and responsive support.[27]

    People with mental illness told the Inquiry that they need their employers
    to be willing to negotiate the supports necessary to maintain employment.
    They also need support from their mental health professionals to discuss
    issues surrounding employment.[28]

    Training of employers and co-workers is also particularly important
    in the case of mental illness.[29]
    The impact of stigma and the remedial potential for training is described
    by blueVoices as follows:

    Stigma is the greatest drawback to persons with mental illness being
    accepted into the workplace. Stigma can prevent an applicant from
    being seriously considered for a position and for a person who is
    already in the workplace and can and does prevent promotion regardless
    of the work capacity of the applicant. There should be compulsory
    workplace training to enable workplaces to understand the impact of
    mental illness and the worthy contribution which a person with mental
    illness can make to the workplace.[30]

    A training program around depression in the workplace has been developed
    by beyondblue. This program 'increases the capacity of organisations
    to recognise and respond to persons who may be indicating signs of psychological
    illness; responses include providing appropriate referrals and support
    and keeping the individual connected and productive at work'.[31]
    beyondblue recommends the development of a national strategy
    of education about mental illness in the workplace.[32]

    The Mental Health Council of Australia is currently conducting consultations
    focussing on the needs of people with mental illness in the workplace.
    One of the goals of these consultations is to develop strategies to
    ensure a supportive workplace for people with mental illness.

    6.3.8 
    Support for people with intellectual disabilities

    The support needs of people with intellectual disabilities can be quite
    different to the needs of people with other types of disability. In
    particular, the supports are likely to be required on an ongoing and
    long term basis. The NSW Council on Intellectual Disabilities (NSW CID)
    states that:

    Studies have shown that the kinds of supports needed to help people
    with intellectual disability find and retain employment are not vastly
    different to the kinds of supports needed by most young people entering
    the workforce for the first time. It is more a matter of degree and
    intensity of support. The studies highlight that the main difference
    between the general population looking for work and people with intellectual
    disability looking for work, is the length of time involved in finding
    a job, learning the job's skills and receiving support to maintain
    the position, but that general principles such as the importance of
    adequate family and community support and appropriate skill development
    are vastly the same. This highlights the fact that the main support
    needs of people with intellectual disability are intensive support
    and time.[33]

    People with intellectual disability may require constant retraining
    and close supervision to ensure a successful employment outcome. NSW
    CID explains that:

    On-the-job training and strong ongoing supports once employment is
    secured is essential for people with intellectual disability. Current
    government programs lack this kind of support. Conventional communication
    and training methods are generally not relevant for most people with
    intellectual disability, but this does not mean that alternative methods
    will not achieve successful outcomes and long-term employment. For
    example, research indicates that for people with intellectual disability,
    'job readiness' training is not as effective as on the job training
    in the environment in which the every day work will occur. 'Place
    and Train' is the common term for this, where a job is first secured
    and training is then provided on the job.[34]

    6.3.9 
    Support for people with vision impairments

    Blind Citizens of Australia suggest that it is difficult for people
    who have lost their sight to retain jobs or re-enter the work place.
    The types of supports needed by blind and vision-impaired people tend
    to be up front technological adaptations, retraining for newly acquired
    impairments and training of work colleagues as to how to adapt their
    communication.

    Blind Citizens of Australia suggests that, amongst other things:

    • the Jobs in Jeopardy program be expanded to have an increased
      focus on equipment provision and retraining; and
    • the
      guidelines for the Workplace Modifications Program should allow
      for a wider range of support to be provided to staff who are blind
      or vision impaired, for example, the employment of a personal reader
      or sighted assistant.[35]

    6.3.10
    Support through easy access to information and
    experts

    No workplace policy or practice, no matter how sophisticated or flexible,
    can cover all eventualities. A large number of submissions recommended
    the establishment of an information source that can provide easily accessible,
    cheap, comprehensive and personalised advice regarding disability and
    the workplace.[36]

    Such a service could provide advice to employers on how to make general
    changes to ensure a supportive environment for people with varying disabilities.
    It could also refer employers to consultants who could design and provide
    workplace training.

    The service should also provide support to employees who may be having
    difficulties in coping with work, and managers who may be having difficulties
    in managing the employee.

    In addition to ongoing advice, such a service could also provide referrals
    to specialised services that can deal with immediate problems. For example,
    it could refer employees with a mental illness, or managers concerned
    about one of his or her employees, to a mental health help line in the
    event of a mental health episode.

    In some cases access to external support may be important to assist
    in resolving potentially difficult issues:

    If the employee experiences difficulties in the workforce or the
    work environment they need to be able to quickly access an external
    agency/personnel at an informal or mediation level, to enable issues
    to be resolved very quickly and easily.[37]

    6.4 
    What training opportunities are available for career
    advancement?

    Several submissions suggest that employees with disability get 'left
    behind' either because workplace training is not accessible to them
    or because there are insufficient opportunities for retraining where
    a disability is acquired in the workplace.[38]

    For example, the Disability Services Commission of Western Australia
    highlights the need for 'increased training and development opportunities
    for individuals who require skills and competency development to advance
    their careers when in employment'.[39]

    6.4.1 
    Accessible training for employees with disability

    People with a disability should . have equal access to training and
    career development programs that are crucial to excelling in any particular
    workplace environment.[40]

    Accessibility to training programs is particularly problematic for
    those with sensory impairments. For example, Blind Citizens Australia
    argues that workers who are blind or vision impaired often cannot access
    training and career development opportunities either within or outside
    the workplace.[41]
    A similar situation arises for people who are Deaf or have hearing impairments.[42]

    Training in the workplace may also be interrupted for people with episodic
    conditions.[43]

    6.4.2 
    Retraining for employees with acquired disability

    Many people acquire a disability while in the workplace and either
    have to learn a new way of working or can no longer do the job they
    used to be able to do. Unless there are opportunities for retraining,
    it is likely that that person will be forced to leave their job.

    This situation occurs frequently in the context of workers becoming
    older and suffering from degenerative sight impairments.[44]
    It also occurs as a result of workplace accidents.

    Scope Victoria suggests that employers could seek the assistance of
    disability support services, should an employee acquire a disability,
    to explore options within the business and the plan to return to work.[45]

    6.5 
    How important is a flexible workplace?

    As discussed in Chapter 2 of this Interim Report, the Disability Council
    of NSW (DC NSW) suggests that a business that focuses on the individual
    differences of its employees and ensures that its workplace can cater
    to those needs, will be a better working environment for all employees
    whether or not they have disabilities.[46]

    Nevertheless, a significant number of submissions to the Inquiry suggest
    that flexible working conditions are a key to a successful employment
    experience, and consequently retention, for people with disability in
    particular.

    Many of the submissions argue for flexibility in the context of the
    employment of people with mental illness. However, the reasons for,
    and the potential success of flexible working conditions extend across
    a range of disabilities. This section will therefore consider the reasons
    for which flexibility may be required by people with disability, and
    the conditions that contribute to a flexible workplace.

    6.5.1 
    Reasons for a flexible workplace

    There are a range of situations in which flexibility is desirable for
    an employee with disability. The circumstances mentioned most often
    in submissions relate to episodic illnesses, such as mental illness,
    or HIV/AIDS.[47]
    For example, it may be that a person with mental illness can be fully
    functional for weeks, months or years at a time, but has periods in
    which he or she can not function to full capacity, or at all. Thus fluctuating
    periods of health may impact on the ability to gain and sustain meaningful
    employment and this may lead to employer reluctance to employ a person
    with an episodic illness.[48]

    Further, people with certain disabilities may not be in a position
    to work a standard day at any time either due to fluctuating or ongoing
    difficulties throughout the day.[49]

    Flexibility may also be required to allow people with disabilities
    to attend medical appointments. Further, the carers of people with disability
    may also require flexibility, in order to be available to meet the needs
    of the person for whom they are caring.

    However, it must be reemphasised that many of the reasons to create
    a flexible workplace for people with disability, also apply to the population
    at large. For example, certain employees may be fine for years on end,
    but go through a personal crisis that impacts on their ability to put
    in a full day for certain periods. Or they may acquire an illness that
    requires frequent visits to a doctor. Or they may become a parent, which
    means that they need to be able to leave on short notice. Thus the creation
    of a flexible workplace is likely to provide a better environment for
    all employees.

    A workplace with flexible working conditions for all staff can protect
    a person who is uncomfortable about disclosing their disability.[50]

    6.5.2 
    Conditions that may contribute to a flexible workplace

    Submissions to the Inquiry provide a range of suggestions as to what
    sorts of working conditions would provide the flexibility that they
    need.

    Access to flexible working hours to take account of changing medical
    conditions and attendance to medical appointments is the condition most
    often mentioned in submissions.[51]
    For example, the Mental Illness Fellowship of Victoria suggests that:

    People with psychiatric disability may require flexibility of working
    hours over time, that is they may require reduced working hours, or
    time off without pay, due to fluctuation in their condition.[52]

    Other types of working conditions that can assist in creating a flexible
    workplace include:

    1.  A trial period commencing with reduced hours and then building up to working
    the required hours.[53]

    2.  Varying start and finish times to allow for factors such as the impact
    of medication and difficulty with transport.[54]

    3.  More small breaks which amount to the overall same time of the standard
    breaks of co-workers.[55]

    4.  Ability to alter tasks to match varying capacity over time.[56]

    5.  Capacity to store medication at work.[57]

    6.  Flexibility regarding sick leave.[58]

    7.  The ability to work from home.[59]

    8.  The use of technology to improve work practices.[60]

    9.  The ability to purchase sick leave and plan for time off that is arranged
    around the individual.[61]

    10.  Job sharing arrangements.[62]

    11.  Job security
    after a period of illness.[63]

    Submissions regarding the situation of people with mental illness also
    suggest that employers may be able to employ a casual to fill a position
    when an employee has to take extended leave so that they are able to
    return to their position when they are well.[64]

    As noted above, the carers of people with a mental illness may also
    require flexible working conditions. Carers Australia suggests a supportive
    and flexible working environment, including:

    • Clear policies on leave provisions so everyone knows what their
      entitlements are and people can utilise their leave when needed.
    • Flexible hours that can be negotiated to suit the
      individual's situation and the requirements of the position and organisation.
    • Access to a telephone so the carer can keep in contact with the
      person requiring care.
    • An awareness and understanding among other
      staff members.[65]

    Some submissions warn against interpreting 'flexibility' to necessarily
    mean part-time or casual work. For example, one individual explained
    that he did not really want part time work, he just wanted the flexibility
    to pace his work:

    Part time positions that were available tended to be low paid and
    less interesting. I really wanted to continue to progress my career
    and work in interesting and enjoyable work. However I felt that I
    would be able to continue working full time if the hours and duties
    were flexible.

    Unfortunately following full time positions were with employers that
    were rigid about hours and expected unpaid overtime. There was no
    time in lieu to allow me to pace. Even though I was enjoying the work
    I was now securing, my fatigue had returned in full force.[66]

    The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP)
    outlines the uncertainty that comes with casual or part time work as
    follows:

    Many people recovering from mental illness are only able to return
    to work part time, at least initially. Casual work is often the only
    option available to them, which leaves them vulnerable if they become
    temporarily sick and have no sick leave. Casual employment can be
    very stressful, and this stress can precipitate an episode of illness,
    or deter participation in the workforce altogether.[67]

    Other submissions emphasise that workplace flexibility means more than
    just 'taking time off'.[68]

    6.6
    Conclusion

    It is in everyone's interest to ensure that a new employment relationship
    is a successful one, whether or not that person has a disability. Many
    of the measures that will improve the chances of a successful employment
    outcome for people with disability will also improve the chances of
    a successful outcome for all employees.

    For example, ensuring good job matching practices, ongoing support
    for employees, training for career advancement and a flexible workplace
    are the elements of any good workplace.

    Further, while it is true that people with certain disabilities may
    require a different type, and possibly greater amounts, of support than
    employees without disability, it is important to remember that many
    employees have disability at certain points in life. For example, a
    person may have a sporting injury, car accident or workplace accident
    and therefore require an accessible workplace during recovery. An ageing
    workforce means that more people will have sight and hearing difficulties.
    And the high rates of mental illness in the community mean that increasing
    numbers of people will need support through their illness in the workplace.

    Similarly, while people with certain disabilities may need flexible
    working conditions to take account of their defined medical and other
    needs, every person has periods of illness and working parents often
    need flexible working conditions to cope with the demand of raising
    children.

    The Inquiry is of the view that developing a supportive and flexible
    workplace for all employees, including those with disability, is a matter
    that deserves urgent and focussed attention.

    Back to contents page | Next chapter



    Endnotes: Chapter 6

    [1]
    See for example Submission 10, Davies, p8-9; Submission 64, WCIG, p1;
    Submission 45B, NSW Council on Intellectual Disabilities, p3; Submission
    96, Department of Human Services, p2; Submission 109, Waghorn and Lloyd,
    p15.

    [2] Submission 78, Physical Disability Council of Australia; Submission
    80, Blind Citizens Australia, p15.

    [3] SANE, Facts and Figures about Mental Illness, at http://www.sane.org/images/assets/Factsheets-PDF/fs13_facts&figures.pdf.

    [4] Submission 34, Manpower Australia, p6.

    [5] J Graffam et al, 'Employer benefits and costs of employing a person
    with a disability', (2002) 17 Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation,
    251 at 256.

    [6]Department of Family and Community Services Incentives
    Strategy Improving Employment Opportunities for People with a Disability,
    Report of the Review of the Employer Incentives Strategy, March 2003,
    Key Area for Action No. 5, p2.

    [7] J Graffam et al, 'Factors that influence employer decisions in hiring
    and retaining an employee with a disability', (2002) 17 Journal of
    Vocational Rehabilitation
    175, p180.

    [8] J Graffam et al 'Factors that influence employer decisions in hiring
    and retaining an employee with a disability', (2002) 17 Journal of
    Vocational Rehabilitation
    175, p180.

    [9] Submission 23, Exton, p1; Submission 19, Action on Disability within
    Ethnic Communities Inc, p1; Submission 60, TAFE NSW, p2; Submission
    90, Council for Equal Opportunity in Employment, p2.

    [10] Submission 80, Blind Citizens Australia, p15.

    [11] See for example, Submission 23, Name Withheld, p1.

    [12] Submission 100, Brotherhood of St Laurence, p4; Submission 107, UnitingCare,
    p5.

    [13] Submission 78, Physical Disability Council of Australia, p14-15.

    [14] Submission 30, Mental Illness Fellowship of Victoria, p6.

    [15] Issues Paper 5, Mapping of Commonwealth Government Services, p8 at
    http://www.humanrights.gov.au/disability_rights/employment_inquiry/docs…

    [16] See for example, Submission 30, Mental Illness Fellowship of Victoria,
    p3; Submission 53, RANZCP, p2; Submission 58, Centre of Full Employment
    and Equity, p6; Submission 92, Social Firms Australia, p2; Submission
    117, Participants of Work Skills Group, p1.

    [17] Submission 80, Blind Citizens Australia, p16.

    [18] Working for Australia Report, Recommendation 19, p169.

    [19] Submission 85, Disability Discrimination Legal Centre NSW (DDLC),
    p14.

    [20] Submission 27, DEAC, p15. See also Submission 25, Victorian Deaf Society,
    p3; Submission 77, RBS.RVIB.VAF Limited, p2; Submission 85, DDLC, p14;
    Submission 127, National Australia Bank, p1, 5.

    [21] Submission 27, DEAC, p15. See also Submission 25, Victorian Deaf Society,
    p3.

    [22] Submission 65, IBM, p2; Submission 127, National Australia Bank, p1.

    [23] Submission 87, Welfare Rights Centre, p10.

    [24] See for example, Submission 51, Iscel, p5.

    [25] Submission 85, DDLC, p9.

    [26] Submission 85, DDLC, p9.

    [27] Submission 30, Mental Illness Fellowship of Victoria, p4.

    [28] Submission 62, Northern Sydney Mental Health Consumer Network, p5-6.

    [29] Submission 62, Northern Sydney Mental Health Consumer Network, p5.

    [30] Submission 83, blueVoices, p3.

    [31] Submission 70, beyondblue, p2.

    [32] Submission 70, beyondblue, p3..

    [33] Submission 45, NSW CID, p8.

    [34] Submission 45B, NSW CID, p3.

    [35] Submission 80, Blind Citizens Australia, p16.

    [36] See for example, Submission 2, Casey; Submission 7,
    Name withheld; Submission 12, Australian National Organisation of the
    Unemployed; Submission 15, McCall (National Diversity Think Tank); Submission
    23, Name withheld; Submission 28, Confidential; Submission 30, Mental
    Illness Fellowship of Victoria; Submission 34, Manpower Services; Submission
    44, Australians for Diversity Employment; Submission 49, Disability
    Council of NSW; Submission 50, Deafness Forum Australia; Submission
    51, Iscel; Submission 57, Queensland Department of Employment and Training;
    Submission 62, North Sydney Mental Health Consumer Network; Submission
    68, ACE National Network; Submission 72, Scope Victoria; Submission
    73, National regional Disability Liaison Officers and Disability Coordination
    Officers Network; Submission 75, Law Institute Victoria; Submission
    76, Stepping Stone Clubhouse; Submission 77B, RBS.RVIB.VAF Limited,
    p2; Submission 85, DDLC NSW; Submission 86, Ai Group; Submission 95,
    Westpac; Submission 99, City of Darebin; Submission 100, Brotherhood
    of St Laurence, p10; Submission 114, ACROD; Submission 118, EOCV; Submission
    124, Department of Employment and Workplace Relations. See also J Graffam
    et al, 'Factors that influence employer decisions in hiring and retaining
    an employee with a disability', (2002) 17 Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation
    175, p180.

    [37] Submission 73, RDLO Network, p8.

    [38] See for example, Submission 47, Deaf Children Australia, p1-2; Submission
    50, Deafness Forum Australia, p10; Submission 85, DDLC, p14.

    [39] Submission 21, Disability Services Commission WA, p4.

    [40] Submission 85, DDLC, p14.

    [41] Submission 80, Blind Citizens Australia, p13.

    [42] Submission 47, Deaf Children Australia, p1-2; Submission 50, Deafness
    Forum Australia, p10; Submission 40, Australian Sign Language Interpreters
    Association, p2.

    [43] Submission 85, DDLC, p16.

    [44] Submission 80, Blind Citizens Australia, p15.

    [45] Submission 72, Scope Victoria, p10.

    [46] Submission 49, Disability Council of NSW, p9. See also J Graffam et
    al, 'Employer benefits and costs of employing a person with a disability',
    (2002) 17 Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation 251, pp256-7.

    [47] Submission 91, National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS,
    p10.

    [48] Submission 85, DDLC NSW, p17.

    [49] Submission 85, DDLC NSW, p10.

    [50] Submission 10, Davies, p10.

    [51] See for example, Submission 60, TAFE NSW, p2; Submission 105, Hanlon,
    p10; Submission 78, Physical Disability Council of Australia, p?; Submission
    27, DEAC, p9; Submission 118, EOCV, pp3-4; Submission 30, Mental Illness
    Fellowship Victoria, p3; Submission 62, Northern Sydney Mental Health
    Consumer Network, p5; Submission 83, blueVoices, p4; Submission 99,
    City of Darebin Disability Working Party, Victoria, p6; Submission 10,
    Davies, pp5-6.

    [52] Submission 30, Mental Illness Fellowship of Victoria, p3. See also
    Submission 62, Northern Sydney Mental Health Consumer Network, p5; Submission 73,
    RDLO Network, p8.

    [53] Submission 62, Northern Sydney Mental Health Consumer Network, p4.

    [54] Submission 62, Northern Sydney Mental Health Consumer Network, p5; Submission
    99, City of Darebin, p6.

    [55] Submission 62, Northern Sydney Mental Health Consumer Network, p5.

    [56] Submission 105, Hanlon, p10; Submission 10, Davies, p1.

    [57] Submission 118, EOCV, pp3-4.

    [58] Submission 64, WCIG, p1.

    [59] Submission 62, Northern Sydney Mental Health Consumer Network, p5; Submission
    78, Physical Disability Council of Australia, p5-6, 15.

    [60] Submission 78, Physical Disability Council of Australia, p15.

    [61] Submission 64, WCIG, p2.

    [62] Submission 105, Hanlon, p10.

    [63] Submission 62, Northern Sydney Mental Health Consumer Network, p4; Submission
    105, Hanlon, p10.

    [64] Submission 62, Northern Sydney Mental Health Consumer Network, p5.

    [65] Submission 102, Carers Australia, p2.

    [66] Submission 10, Davies, p2.

    [67] Submission 53, RANZCP, p2.

    [68] See for example. Submission 5, Buysen, p3.