Government Plans New Disability Payment Scheme
16 January 2014 at 10:25 am
The Federal Government will introduce a new payment scheme for employees with intellectual disabilities that work in Australian Disability Enterprises but peak Not for Profits say it isn’t enough.
Previously employees with intellectual disability had their wages assessed under the Business Service Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT).
The Government plan follows last year’s decision of the full Federal Court in Nojin and Prior v The Commonwealth that the BSWAT model was discriminatory to people with disability, specifically people with intellectual disability.
An application by the Commonwealth to exempt the BSWAT from the obligations within the Disability Discrimination Act is currently before the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The Government said the new payment scheme would deliver certainty for employees, their families and carers, as well as their employers, while the implications of the BSWAT court decisions were worked through.
It said it was also working on developing a new wage assessment process.
“The Australian Government’s priority is to ensure minimal disruption to the employment of these supported employees,” Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews and Assistant Social Services Minister Mitch Fifield said.
“We want to assure people with disability, their families and carers that the Australian Government remains committed to ensuring supported employees have certainty about their future employment within Australian Disability Enterprises.
“Employees with intellectual disability, who have worked in an Australian Disability Enterprise at the Grade 1 or 2 Level, have been paid a pro-rata wage assessed using the BSWAT and have experienced economic loss, will be eligible to register for the scheme from 1 July 2014.”
The Federal Government said it would provide more information about eligibility and other details as the scheme was developed.
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) welcomed the recognition by the Coalition Government that people with intellectual disability who have been paid according to the BSWAT in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) have experienced economic loss.
However, Matthew Bowden, Co-Chief Executive Officer of PWDA said: “Information released by the Commonwealth states that workers seeking legal redress for the discrimination they experienced and their consequent loss of earnings will be exempt from inclusion in the scheme.
“Workers with disability are entitled to the same employment conditions and protections as any other workers in Australia, including the right to seek a remedy when they have been discriminated against and their rights violated.
"This is the action that Mr Nojin and Mr Prior took in taking their experiences of workplace discrimination to court. The outcome of their action provided the unprecedented opportunity to correct one for the employment practices that has unlawfully and systematically discriminated against people with disability for many years.
“While the announcement is a welcome recognition of the detrimental impact of the BSWAT wage assessment tool on the lives of people with intellectual disability, the scheme does not address the discriminatory impact of the continued use of the BSWAT in ADEs.
“Broad reform of this sector is urgently required to end use of the BSWAT, transition to the Supported Wage System, and to provide genuine employment support to people with disability to move in to open employment."
Disability Employment Australia has also commended the Government for committing to improve the financial wellbeing of those with intellectual disability attending ADEs.
However the organisation said more needed to be done.
“While we acknowledge that this scheme is a temporary solution, and that the Government will develop a new wage assessment tool, this does not address the core issue of our societies’ low acceptance and low expectations of the contributions that people with disability can make to our work environments and communities if they have the opportunity to be included,” CEO of Disability Employment Australia, Lynette May said.
“That we continue to believe that people with disability ‘need’ to be employed in a segregated setting with different rights and responsibilities to the general population is a belief that needs to be seriously challenged – as is happening elsewhere in the world.
“A truly inclusive society would have an expectation that businesses would be employing people with disability under award conditions the same as their peers, maximising every individual’s full potential to achieve their goals and aspirations, while enriching the communities we live in."
Disability Employment Australia advocates for pathways for people with disability in ADEs to access both open employment and open employment services in the form of Disability Employment Services (DES).
For information on the scheme call 1800 880 052 or go to www.dss.gov.au/bswat/PaymentScheme.