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Disability Employment in Public Service Going Backwards

16 January 2019 at 10:34 am
Luke Michael
The disability community is being shut out of public sector jobs, disability groups say in light of recent data which shows the employment of people with disability in the public service is continuing to go backwards.

Luke Michael | 16 January 2019 at 10:34 am


Disability Employment in Public Service Going Backwards
16 January 2019 at 10:34 am

The disability community is being shut out of public sector jobs, disability groups say in light of recent data which shows the employment of people with disability in the public service is continuing to go backwards.

New South Wales’ latest State of the Public Sector Report revealed that people with disability made up 2.5 per cent of the public service in 2018, down from 2.7 per cent the previous year.

The report noted a sustained downward trend in disability employment, which went as high as 4.8 per cent in 2006 but has declined every year since.

This decline comes despite a NSW government target to increase the representation of people with disability in the public service to 5.6 per cent by 2027.

Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia, Therese Sands, told Pro Bono News she was shocked by the figures.

“This simply isn’t good enough. People with disability are nearly 20 per cent of NSW’s population, and yet we are still shut out of public sector employment,” Sands said.

Sands was also disappointed that the report found people with disability experienced bullying at a much higher rate, with 30 per cent of people with disability reporting being bullied in the workplace compared to 18 per cent generally.

PWDA has called for a national jobs plan for people with disability, and Sands said a NSW disability inclusion minister was needed to drive cross-government responsibility for disability inclusion in all aspects of community life, including public sector employment.

“Workplaces need to change their attitudes to hiring people with disability, ensure reasonable accommodations are easy to get, and that work is made more flexible,” she said.

“This report should be a wakeup call in NSW, and beyond, that it’s time for urgent change.”

The NSW Council for Intellectual Disability (CID) labelled the disability figures “appalling” on Twitter, and CID inclusion project officer Robyn Russell said she suspected the decline was due to a lack of support in the workplace.

“Generally when someone with an intellectual disability is placed in a job… we hear successful stories of how the workplace culture is enhanced by having someone with a disability as part of their staff,” Russell told Pro Bono News.

CID is launching a new project – More Than Just a Job – which Russell said was a way to provide skills and resources to organisations and staff so they could support people with intellectual disability in the workplace.

“It’s about approaching businesses and opening their eyes to the benefits of having someone with a disability as an employee,” she said.

The NSW Public Service Commission’s Workforce Profile Report 2018 said a key contributor to the decrease of employees with disability was the transfer of disability services from Family and Community Services (FACS) to private providers under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

This report also noted decreasing representation of people with disability in the public service was not confined to NSW, with the Victorian, Queensland and Western Australian public sectors also reporting a decline in the last decade.

In 2017, just 3.6 per cent of Australian Public Service (APS) employees identified as having a disability, compared to 6.6 per cent in 1986.

A number of other states also have disability employment targets in the public service – Victoria has a 6 per cent target by 2020 and Queensland has an 8 per cent target by 2022.   

To support NSW’s 5.6 per cent target, the NSW Public Service Commission (PSC) and FACS developed a sector-wide plan to improve employment opportunities for people with disability.

A NSW PSC representative told Pro Bono News while the disability representation rate had declined yearly for the past 10 years according to HR data, a 2018 staff survey found 3.7 per cent of employees’ identifying as a person with disability – an 0.6 per cent increase from a 2017 survey.

The representative said this showed anonymous self-reporting was viewed as safer by employees, and that there were data collection challenges around peoples’ choice to disclose and maintain up to date information.

“We are continuing to improve processes and [communicate to] support agencies and their staff about the value in providing this information,” they said.   

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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  • anonymous says:

    I was labelled ‘intellectually disabled’ as a highly functional autistic. I struggled to participate in a debate class. Until one day, when I told the facilitator that it’s not that I couldn’t think, my problem is that I have a very vivid photographic memory and my thought seems to run faster than my motor skill to verbalise it, I often ended up stuttered.

    When they figured out that my brain works differently, they adjust the process. They had allowed 1 minute to think before responding. The result: it allows me to map and scribble my thoughts in dot points on a piece of paper – thus help me articulate my response in a structured manner. I won!.

    People with disability often require some adjustments. Adjustments are not about providing a special privilege. Adjustments are about levelling up the playing field.

  • Kaz Newton says:

    This is a common problem in Public Service, APS, hospitals, schools public and independents plus large companies and corporations. I worked as a manager of a Disability Employment Service from 2002-2008 and found a lot of barriers in this industries but, small DES were chipping away at how to get change happening. Re-entering the industry late 2018 I have observed these industries are even more closed to DES providers… they won’t even speak with us. In 2002-2008 I wrote proposals to encourage HR specialists to develop job descriptions specific to sourcing people with specific disabilities including autism, and intellectual disability on supported wages. No interest then and still none now. I have recently read APS can do this. Guess what, no jobs listed and Recruitability doesn’t seem to have much luck either. With the NDIS role out maybe government at all levels need to implement job carve within their departments and start the ball rolling on changes in legislation for employment. Universities need to be a lot more realistic when teaching HR specialists about implementation of not just modifications in the workplace but modification of job descriptions. Teach Industry and specifically HR specialists to be INCLUSIVE , not just non discriminatory – “yes you can apply” …. if you can meet this really complex application process and multitasking job description . Teach them to breakdown the multitasking demands of the higher wages to carve off jobs for people with disabilities or get DES to work with them to get it right! I have done this before and it works… saves money as higher paid professionals with Masters degrees, don’t have to spend time responding to general enquires, photocopying, shredding, setting up for meetings etc. Let’s ask WHO are the gatekeepers locking the disability sector and their job seekers out… CEO’s and HR are the gatekeepers!

  • John Stevens says:

    I am currently on WC due to bullying and harassment and two shoulder injuries that required three operations and two shoulder replacements since Aug 2016.I did return to work in March 2017 for three months but fell on the train and completely destroyed a left shoulder that was already torn from overuse,compensating the right shoulder injured first.My right knee was replaced in Jan this year and I have plantar facilities and spurring in my left ankle causing. Me to have mobility problems yet my employer refused to allow me to work from home or even close to home forcing me back on the trains even though I told them I feared for my safety due to my disabilities .Every thing I asked for was refused.My employer has on more than five occasions deducted amounts from $200.00 to $1000 from my pay without my knowledge or agreement owing to a dispute over an overpayment they caused and a refusal to pay me around $4000 for unpaid Public holidays etc.In addition they have on three separate occasions reduced my Long service leave by over 100 hours and stopped it altogether.It took me four months to get the balances restored and an admission but no apology that they had intentionally done it on incorrect advice about Long Service Leave accruals being not allowed to officers on WC.Despite complaints from me about these constant transgressions they have taken over $500 from my first two pays in January and after I complained to my new Exec Director he retaliated by getting Payroll and other officers not to return my calls and emails and sending me a letter telling me that independently of the Insurer QBE they were going to get info on my fitness to work and send me to an IME.Obviously setting me up for medical retirement.Same day they cut my pay they advised me in writing that they had abolished my job in a new restructure.I have gone to my union and I am receiving a little help but I just found out that because I am a NSW Gov employee I have no rights like those covered by Fair Work.To complain about what is happening I have to go to my own Mgrs,the ones responsible for the bulllying.Either that I was told,or get a good industrial lawyer and pay up.This is the most unfair policy I have seen in over thirty six years in Public Service.We have less rights than a dog in the street and Mgrs know this and gleefully do what they like to us.Has any other NSW public sector employee got any ideas or advice on this because it is doing my head in.

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