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News update
2/12/2021
News update

Joint Standing Committee releases report on NDIS Commission

After an inquiry that ran for almost 18 months, the report on the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission has been released, making 30 recommendations.
News update
1/12/2021
News update

New Support Coordination paper released

The long-awaited outcomes of a review of support coordination have been outlined in a new NDIA paper, Improving Support Coordination for NDIS participants.

RC interrogates public and private sector employers on disability employment

blue banner that reads Royal Commission hearing summary

23/11/2021

In opening the hearing, the RC cited the low rates of employment of people with disability in Australia, and emphasised the responsibility of employers. It was noted that, of the 12 large private companies giving evidence at the hearing, an average of 1.15 per cent of employees identify as people with disability.Three companies – Woolworths, Kmart and Compass – all agreed these figures were too low, but some suggested non-disclosure and invisible disability were barriers to improvement. Efforts to support people with disability to gain and sustain employment varied between the organisations: some had set targets and had given staff disability awareness training; others referred more to general diversity initiatives. When the Chair asked why Woolworths didn’t compile data on adjustment requests, the witness said it was a large organisation and a number of initiatives were being worked on.By contrast, Telstra, IBM and Services Australia spoke about their programs which target neurodivergent people for employment. They described a range of changes to standard recruitment processes, including doing away with interviews and allowing applicants to demonstrate skills rather than describe them. While the programs were only introduced recently, all three noted the positive impacts already within their organisations.Speaking on behalf of members, the Business Council of Australia said initiatives should be codesigned with industry, and called for more systematised arrangements with DES providers.Other witnesses recounted the fear of people disclosing their disability to current and prospective employers. A former Anti-Discrimination Commissioner cited the frequently negative consequences of disclosing, saying she advises people, ‘if you don’t need to, don’t disclose’. Many organisations treat disability discrimination law as voluntary, she said. One other perverse outcome was that reluctance to disclose suggests more people with disability are employed than official figures may indicate. Lack of concrete data was a recurring pitfall.Witnesses recounted a lack of knowledge of the employment rights of people with disability – from employers and people with disability alike. Legal services working pro bono for people with disability said their work remains ‘invisible’ as the vast majority of disputes reach settlements, often including confidentiality clauses, without going to court. The Disability Discrimination Act often only comes into play after the employer-employee relationship is irreparably damaged, and employees face power imbalances and fear staggering legal fees if they lose, witnesses said.A Director of a disability service spoke positively about the transformation the provider had undergone in employing people with disability – in part by introducing it as part of senior leaders’ key performance indicators.

This week’s hearing builds on evidence from public hearing 9, which included personal accounts of people with disability experiencing barriers to open employment, to consider how private and public employers have addressed these barriers. The RC previously categorised them into four themes: attitudinal, environmental, organisational and structural.From 10am 24 November, evidence will be heard on adjustments and work health and safety issues from private and public sector employers. The full witness list is available on the RC website.

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