December 3 2012, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten launched a public consultation on proposals to boost employment participation for people with disability.
Tackling bias towards people with disability
The fight for equal opportunity for people with disabilities in finding suitable work could easily commence in South Australia through the WorkCover system. Where many of those on WorkCover are or have been offered redundancy packages instead of attempting to find them suitable employment. In South Australia it appears that dumping our disabled workers has become an “easy out” for many employers. (Including government departments). This move by Minister Bill Shorten is a well needed and timed event. However, I would like to suggest to Minister Shorten to review past and present WorkCover claim files to see what genuine attempts have been made by employers and rehabilitation consultants to find their disabled employees suitable employment. Surely many of these WorkCover disabled have been unfairly and unnecessarily dumped on our disability pension or unemployment allowance. According to this document the responsibility falls to employers to actively resolve their bias issues and help disabled employees find suitable employment. An obvious, “first step”, is address their ” legal responsibility” and provide the WorkCover disabled with suitable employment before placing them on a pension or an allowance. Even if it means a new employer. Find those dumped off Workcover who are struggling on unemployment allowances first. (address that legal responsibility). It is also a double standard that an employee can have their employment terminated after a length of time after claiming Workcover. It is legal discrimination to terminate the “disabled employee” after the designated time? Clearly a double standard? Employers do not want to hire “risks”. That is a stigma that must change. That people are hired for their “ability” to do tasks not their “disabilities”. It’s sad to think our return to work system in Australia, especially South Australia, is failing due to employers discriminating towards people with disabilities. Having legal acts that support that discrimination is a hinder rather than a help. A review on changing the biases in the Workcover act to commence a positive change forward is important. Free up the system first. It’s hard to change attitudes and biases when legislation and acts provide the avenues to hide and breed bias attitudes. I agree Bill Shorten, its time to change the way Australian employers are allowed treat our disabled.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten today launched public consultation on proposals to boost employment participation for people with disability.
Policy reform that examines ways to increase employment participation and eliminate workplace discrimination for people with disability is part of a major discussion paper Mr Shorten released today.
“We need a game changer to address the unconscious bias against people with disability in the Australian workforce,” Mr Shorten told a Melbourne function marking International Day of People with Disability.
“Last month’s labour force data shows that even in the face of ongoing global economic uncertainty there are more Australians in work than ever before.
“Employees with disability have, on average, better attendance rates, higher job retention and fewer occupational health and safety incidents than other employees.
“However, the labour force participation rate of people without disability is 82 per cent and only 54 per cent for people with disability.”
“Australians with disability deserve the right to an ordinary life.”
A recent study by Deloitte Access Economics found that if the gap in the participation rate and unemployment rate for people with and without disability could be reduced by one-third and phased in over the next decade, the cumulative impact on GDP over the next decade would be $43 billion.
The discussion paper, Improving Employment Participation of People with Disability, seeks public views on how to best achieve reform, including:
- Improving equality for people with disability in employment and in the workplace;
- Promoting among employers the elimination of discrimination on the basis of a person’s disability; and
- Improving the productivity and competitiveness of Australian business through the advancement of people with disability in the workplace.
Minister Shorten said: “The ASX have agreed to work with the Government to benchmark what best practice disability reporting and employment among Australia’s top companies looks like, so that an example can be set for others.”
“We must ensure that all Australians, regardless of disability, are able to find a job, earn a wage, enjoy the dignity of work and prosper from satisfying and rewarding careers.”
“That’s why the Government is committed to creating lasting opportunities for employment for people with disability and we know employers are the key.
“I encourage people with disability, employers, unions and peak organisation to take the time to read the discussion paper and provide written submissions so we can work together to shape this important reform.”