Employment & Disability: Everything You Need To Know
A person living with disabilities is a person first. The access limitations you encounter do not define you, but they may shape how you experience and participate in the world around you. This applies to all areas of life because the experience of a disability does not discriminate between times of inconvenience or denial. Nonetheless, people live with disabilities and participate in the workforce. The opportunity to do meaningful or self-fulfilling work is not only good for those we are benefiting, it also makes us feel good internally and preserves our self worth.
People who live with a disability are an important part of the employment landscape, and employment is an important part of the lives of people who live with a disability. There are many systems in place to support people with disabilities to access and participate in work in Australia.
Whether you or a loved one live with a disability, you’re an employer who wants to learn about social inclusion, or you’re simply interested in the dynamics of employment and disability in Australia, there’s a wealth of information available at your fingertips.
The Importance of Work for a Person with a disability
Regardless of whether or not they live with a disability, work provides people with a sense of value, dignity, and self-respect, and can improve their energy and outlook. Of course, not everyone loves their job or finds it fulfilling, but they still have the chance to enjoy these benefits from the opportunity to work. Whether you like your job or not, there is something to be gained from employment and participation in society.
People who live with a disability are more likely to experience mental illness in their lifetime, and there can be a number of different causes. The limitations they encounter can increase the development of a mental illness. By ensuring people who live with a disability have the opportunity to participate in society through social activities, employment activities, religious activities, and recreational activities, we improve their chances of preventing the development of a mental illness.
Employment of People with a disability in Australia
Employment is linked to income and economic security as well as other aspects of well-being. Challenges in finding or keeping employment can have a wider impact on an individual’s living conditions and opportunities, as well as their family and the wider community.
According to the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO), people with disability generally experience:
- lower rates of labour force participation
- lower rates of employment
- higher rates of unemployment
- greater reliance on government pensions or benefits as their main source of income than people without disability.
They go on further to note that 53% of all persons with a disability participate in the labour force, with 48% employed. Australia ranks 21 out of 29 OECD countries for participation of persons with disabilities in the labour force.
What are the barriers to employment for persons with disabilities in Australia?
Like most of the world, people who live with a disability in Australia may have access limitations to fully participate in their work. These barriers to employment inherently result in underemployment as the person with a disability is restricted from fully contributing to the work they do.
Limitations to access can be physical, structural or psychosocial and each represents a different challenge for employers and employees. Employers can create a more welcoming environment by assessing, planning, implementing, and evaluating what is needed to include employees with disabilities
Workplaces can train their employees on working with persons with disabilities, they can implement technology or devices to increase accessibility, and they can listen to and be responsive to the reasonable needs of persons living with a disability.
Disclosure of a disability when applying for a job
People who live with a disability are more likely to face workplace discrimination, whether outright or in less obvious ways. This is a serious concern for a person with a disability who is seeking employment and may create ambiguity when deciding what to disclose and when.
Choosing to disclose a disability can happen at any time in the employment process. The choice to disclose a disability is 100% up to the person who lives with the disability, unless they are seeking an accommodation for their access obstacles in the workplace. They may then have to disclose some aspects of their disability in order to secure appropriate work arrangements.
There is ample fear from employees and employers regarding the employment of a person with a disability. Employers tend to have fears about the expenses of accommodating their employee, safety issues for their employee and other employees, legal and financial concerns, or liability and insurance issues. While it’s normal to have fear about things that are unknown, employer education can go a long way in improving most of these concerns.
On the other hand, employees may be scared to disclose a disability for fear of being treated differently by their employer or coworkers. They may fear their employer will retaliate if they need to make adjustments for them. They may have concerns that they won’t be hired or considered fairly for a position.These are understandable fears to address, but persons who live with a disability should know that the law protects them and they can disclose their disability with the confidence that they have the backing of the law and the government. Likewise, they can also choose not to disclose their disability without fear of repercussions.
Discrimination due to a disability in relation to employment is governed by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and is handled by the Australian Human Rights Commission. Complaints that fall under the DDA make up the majority of complaints made to the Australian Human Rights Commission and the bulk of their work.
Frequently, when an employer is making a job listing, they are concerned about the ability of a person living with a disability to fulfill the roles of the position. They may include language in the job description to intentionally discourage a person with a disability from applying. While they may not want to discriminate against a person with a disability, they have already done so unintentionally by listing requirements that are meant to discourage those with a disability.
Unfortunately, this happens more often than not. Employers don’t want to discriminate or end up on the wrong side of the law, but their concerns about accommodating or increasing accessibility for a person with a disability are usually unfounded or exaggerated. Employers should commit to being Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) employers who hire a person because of their ability to do the inherent requirements of the position. They should not include overly restrictive or discouraging language in job descriptions, and be open to making reasonable accommodations to ensure that any person who can fulfill the role has the support and flexibility to do so.
If you’re concerned that you are being discriminated against due to a disability you live with, you can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission for consultation or to lodge a complaint.
Who can help people with a disability?
There are many options available for those who require assistance with employment. These include private support providers, non-governmental organisations, and government service organisations that specifically support people with a disability who work.
The main government organisations that work in this arena fall under the Disability Employment Services and can include support from either of its two component programs:
- Disability Management Service is for job seekers with disability, injury, or condition and need assistance to find a job and occasional support in the workplace to keep a job.
- Employment Support Service is for job seekers with a permanent disability who need help to find a job and who need regular, ongoing support in the workplace to keep a job.
Besides the efforts of these programs, people who live with a disability can get funding under the National Disability Insurance Scheme for specific employment supports. These supports can vary from day to day on the job assistance, to assessments for suitability to work and needed interventions, to counseling to improve psychosocial functioning at work. Maple Community Services has the experience and expertise to assess your employment needs and work closely with you to incorporate the appropriate changes to your working environment.
What kinds of jobs can a person with a disability do?
People living with a disability are no different than anyone else, but they frequently experience the world in a different way. That means that there are very few jobs that a person with a disability can’t do.According to the AFDO, the most common occupation categories for persons with a disability are professionals (22%), clerical and administrative (14%), labourers (13%), and technicians and trades workers (13%). Meanwhile, persons living with a profound disability are most likely to work as labourers, with administrative and professional jobs as the next most frequent roles.
Whatever work you do or you want to do, Maple Community Services has a wealth of experience in assisting persons living with a disability to work. Let our Support Coordinators schedule you for an assessment today, identify your individual needs, and develop a plan to make the most of your employment opportunities.
Writing a CV
When a person who lives with a disability makes their CV, they should go about it in the exact same way any other person would. There is no need for disclosure of a disability on your CV or at any time unless it will affect your job performance negatively. Consider the work you’ve done and ways in which you can describe it that won’t allude to your disability if you’d like to conceal that information. If you want to include it in your CV or feel that it’s relevant to your professional development, by all means write about it in roles you’ve held or in a brief introduction. A cover letter may be a good place to address it as well if it’s something you’d like to share.