Hir­ing Dis­abled Employees

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.