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9 May 2013 Hiring Disabled Employees

By Warwick Ryan, Partner and Laura Sowden, Solicitor


In Brief

People often judge a book by its cover and this still applies when it comes to the judgments we make about each other. In light of the proposed anti discrimination legislation, this article outlines how the supported wage system assists with the employment of disabled persons.


What is the supported wage system?

Industrial awards have specific provisions which provide that employees with a disability can receive wages on a sliding scale according to their ability to perform the work they are assigned. Individuals whose productive work capacity is reduced by reason of disability can be paid a productivity wage. A National Panel of Assessors assesses the productivity of employees with disabilities and that assessment is then used to calculate a corresponding wage.

To be eligible for the supported wage system:

  • the employee's work must be covered by an industrial award or enterprise agreement which includes a provision for the supported wage system;
  • the employee is an Australia citizen or a permanent resident;
  • the employee is 15 years or over;
  • the employee has no outstanding workers compensation claim against the employer;
  • the employee meets the impairment criteria for the Disability Support Pension; and
  • the job is for 8 hours or more per week.

It is important to note that supported wages can only be paid if an assessment is carried out by the National Panel. The assessment process does not cost the employer, it is Government funded.

Example: If the employer makes an application for an assessment and the employee's productivity is assessed at 70 per cent compared with their peers then the employer can legally pay the employee 70 per cent of award wages.

The supported wage system enables people with disabilities to compete in the market place and encourages employers to consider employing people with disabilities. There are a number of employment agencies which specialise in disability employment.

Disability discrimination in brief

It is unlawful to treat a person less favourably than another person, in the same or similar circumstances because of their disability. It is discriminatory if an employer does not make reasonable adjustments for the disabled person and in not making those adjustments treat that person less favourably.  It is not necessary that the person's disability be the dominant reason or a substantial reason for the treatment for the conduct to be discriminatory.  If the employee or prospective employee cannot do the job even with reasonable adjustments then it is acceptable to determine they are not suitable for the job.

For further information on what constitutes disability discrimination in employment as well as the exceptions which allow discrimination, please see our Disabled Employees article.

What to take away
  • Hiring disabled employees with limited capacity is financially viable under the supported wage system
  • People with a disability are protected from discrimination in the workplace.


If you have any questions or are considering hiring a disabled employee please contact:


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This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

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