What is the disability employment strategy?

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The latest disability employment strategy for Australia, Employ My Ability, aims to create inclusive workplace cultures which will give more people with disability jobs and help them to keep those jobs.

Key points

  • Australia’s disability employment strategy aims to increase the employment of people with disability
  • The Strategy is titled Employ My Ability and was released in 2021
  • There are four priority areas to help employers overcome employment barriers for people with disability

The Australian Government developed the Strategy with feedback from people with disability, their families, advocacy organisations, peak bodies, employers and service providers and it links to Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-2031.

The Strategy recognises that people with disability face barriers to work, including:

  • Negative attitudes in the community
  • Discrimination during recruitment
  • Bullying and a lack of support in the workplace
  • A lack of support in finding, securing and keeping employment
  • Difficulty in accessing training and education
  • Difficulty asking for reasonable adjustments

To overcome these barriers the Strategy will help employers and employment services to realise there are benefits to hiring people with disability.

These benefits range from increased revenue, productivity levels and innovation, to better workplace cohesion and being able to use a broader pool of talent.

The Strategy has four priority areas:

  • Lifting employer engagement, capability and demand
  • Building skills, experience and confidence of young people with disability
  • Improving systems and services for job seekers and employers
  • Changing community attitudes

Lifting employer engagement, capability and demand

This is about getting employers to think about hiring, supporting and training people with disability as employees.

To support this outcome the Government will develop information, resources and tools which employers can use to learn about inclusive workplaces, as well as employing more people with disability in public service.

Government programs are already in the process of being reformed to make sure they work well for employers and employees as part of this outcome area.

Employers can also learn about how to foster inclusion through websites like JobAccess and develop their own Disability Action Plan to use to work towards equality.

Building skills, experience and confidence of young people with disability

This outcome is important because almost one in five young people with disability don’t find work for up to seven years after leaving school, compared to one in 20 young people without disability.

The Government has committed to finding new ways to support the transition from school into work and creating information and resources to support students to find the confidence and skills they need.

The Strategy says employers can help by hiring young people with disability, giving them work experience opportunities and making sure that recruitment through pathways like graduate programs and cadetships are inclusive.

It also suggests families should develop their child’s expectations and goals for their future career from an early age and that schools play a role in helping students to find a pathway that works for them.

Improving systems and services for job seekers and employers

Consultation while developing the Strategy showed the disability employment and income support systems were too hard to use for employers and employees.

To work towards solving these issues the Government will look at disability and mainstream employment services to identify how they can work effectively with other Government programs.

The systems will be improved to give more choice and control to people with disability and to provide individual supports that actually meet the needs of each person.

The Government will also improve the information and resources for employees and employers and help to connect people with that support.

Changing community attitudes

The community often discriminates against people with disability because of stereotypes and other unconscious or misguided views.

Changing community attitudes will help to make it easier for people with disability to apply for a job, to be considered for that job and to find the support they need to keep that job.

It will also mean better support for people who face barriers not only because of the way others think about their disability but also because of race, sex or age.

If the community values the work of people with disability, employers will look for the support which their employees might need to keep working.

Employers that are inclusive will help to change the views of the whole community and there are already great examples of these across Australia, but there could be lots more.

Practical support

The Government needs strategies like this one to guide the work of different Departments and programs.

Although this Strategy is theoretical, if it is successful both employers and people with disability will notice a difference in the practical supports available to improve employment opportunities.

Employers are likely to see more programs of financial support, training or development for their business and staff to hire people with disability and create an inclusive work environment.

People with disability are likely to see more employment services and job opportunities that suit them, more support in the workplace and a broader appreciation of the value of employees with disability.

Sharing the strategy

Once you understand the Strategy you might like to share it with others in your community or workplace. It can help them to understand that people with disability have a lot to offer and to think about the difference that employers can make.

The full Strategy is available on the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services website.

An easy read version of the Strategy is available here and there is also an Auslan version.

How important do you think it is to increase employment of people with disability? Tell us in the comments below.

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