25 August 2017


The ACT Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Health, Ageing and Community Services report on the Employment of People with Disabilities examines
matters related to hospitals, community and public health, mental health, health promotion and disease prevention, disability matters, drug and substance misuse, targeted health programs and community services, including services for older persons and women, families, housing, poverty, and multicultural and indigenous affairs. 
The Committee notes that
a) the employment rate of people with disability in the ACT Public Service is 2.2 per cent as at June 2016; 
b) the Australian Human Rights Commission report, Willing to Work: National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination Against Older Australians and Australians with Disability found the ACT to be the only jurisdiction with an increase in the employment of people with disability over the 2013-15 period; 
c) the ACT Government’s new Office for Disability and Disability Reference Group has been established to provide strategic policy advice on disability issues. 
The  Committee's terms of reference encompass
• the implementation of the ACT Public Service Disability Employment Strategy; 
• the effectiveness of current attraction and retention programs in the ACT Public Service; 
• the effectiveness of current attraction and retention programs for ACT based private enterprise and community organisations; 
• data collection, monitoring and reporting mechanisms; 
• relevant experiences and learnings from Australian State, Commonwealth and international jurisdictions; 
• the applicability to the ACT Public Service, of recommendations and findings from the report Employing people with disability in the APS published by the University of Canberra; 
• gender related matters that intersect with the employment of people with disabilities; and 
• any other relevant matter. 
The Committee's recommendations are that -
1 the ACT Government adopt a standard definition of disability for use in all training, policies and decisions making processes relating to employment, including reasonable adjustment. 
2 the ACT Government have a standalone disability employment strategy for the ACT Public Service developed in consultation with people with a disability, the Disability Reference Group and other stakeholders. This Strategy should include: a) Consideration of any outstanding action items previous strategies, policies and frameworks relating to disability employment in the ACT Public Service. b) Consideration of the Doing it Differently “ask the person” approach for service interactions with both employees and service users that disclose a disability; c) A timeline for all ACT Government Directorates to develop Disability Employment Action Plans with clear lines of accountability, monitoring and evaluation; d) Recognition and support for people with mental illness and/or psychosocial disabilities in the workplace; e) A timeline for all ACT Government Directorates to appoint a Disability Inclusion Champion and establish a Disability Employee Network; and f) A timeline for the ACT Government to establish a Practitioner’s Network across all Directorates and Agencies. 
3  the ACT Government encourage the Disability Reference Group to consider: a) identifying and addressing barriers to employment as part of their forward work plan, and b) disability employment objectives under the National Disability Insurance Scheme to inform the transition. 
4 the ACT Government review the NSW High Growth Jobs, Talented Candidates project for implementation in the ACT. 
5 the ACT Government consider evaluating the Lead Toolkit from New Zealand for use in a future training program. 
6 the ACT Government consider what place-based disability employment initiatives can be implemented as part of future disability employment strategies. 
7 the ACT Government consider establishing a paid internship program to build professional skills, provided there are links to an employment pathway, for people with a disability, as part of its continuum of disability employment initiatives. 
8 the Office of the Legislative Assembly for the ACT be funded to deliver a paid internship program for people with a disability in the ACT Legislative Assembly, provided that there are links with an employment pathway. 
9 the ACT Government continue successful initiatives at identified entry points, including the graduate and traineeship programs. 
10 the ACT Government ensure all procurement guidelines for ICT products purchased by the ACT Government require accessibility features as a standard. 
11 the ACT Government review the ACT Government’s social procurement guidelines to better support disability employment outcomes. 
12 the ACT Government undertake an evaluation of the payroll tax concession scheme and publish this when finalised. 
13 the ACT Government establishes an access committee, comprising of representatives with disabilities, to provide advice and comment on planning and transport policies. 
14 the ACT Government establishes a register for people with a disability with the purposes of matching people with disabilities with board and committee vacancies. 
15 Healthier Work ACT consider focusing on strategies to improve mental health in ACT workplaces including for people with disabilities. 
16 the ACT Government advocate for better employment supports, and in particular, the identification of employment opportunities with the National Disability Insurance Agency. 
17 the ACT Government work with the Australian Network on Disability to become a disability confident recruiter. 
18 the ACT Government reviews standardised selection criteria to improve flexibility and reduce barriers for people with a disability. 
19 the ACT Government identifies certain positions suitable for people with a disability for selective recruitment and placement in all Directorates and across all levels of employment. 
20 the ACT Government implement the Doing it Differently recommendation of co-designing a developmental performance review system to support public servants with a disability. 
21 the ACT Government supports people with a disability through an emerging leaders program to support career development into future senior leadership roles. 
22 the ACT Government adopt an anonymous reporting process for people employed in the ACT Public Service that is reported on annually in the State of the Service report. The Survey should use terminology consistent with the definition of disability. 
23 the ACT Government consider the Washington Group questions to inform future data collection processes. 
24 the ACT Government and agencies be required to report on disability employment rates and outcomes, as well as progress against disability employment action plans in their annual reports tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly. 
25 the ACT Government ensure Shared Services ICT, provides timely support for reasonable adjustments in the IT system including hardware and software enhancements. 
26 the Head of Service set short, medium and long term targets for people with a disability in the ACT public service that reflects the broad proportion of people with disabilities in the community. 
27 the ACT Government review performance requirements of senior officers in the ACT Public Service to build in diversity requirements and implementation of disability employment action plans. 
28 the ACT Government ensure all senior executives have detailed targets for the employment of people with disabilities included in their performance agreements. 
29 the ACT Government review options to improve data collection from ACT Government contractors around the levels of disability employment for publication. 
30 the ACT Government considers collecting and publishing data in relation to occasions of bullying and harassment of people with disabilities in the ACTPS. 
31 the ACT Government ensure all staff at the Executive Level 1 or 2 equivalent, and all human resource team members, attend compulsory face-to-face disability awareness training and access to a disability employment toolkit. Training should be co-designed by people with disabilities and include reference to mental illness. 
32 training includes awareness of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 requirements in electronic communication and publishing.
In defining 'disability the report states
The Committee understands that there are a number of ways to define and measure disability in Australia. The section below highlights the difference in approaches and discusses how this can have implications for job seekers and employers. 1.6 In relation to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) specific definitions, the ACT Discrimination Act 1991 defines disability as: a) total or partial loss of a bodily or mental function; or b) total or partial loss of a part of the body; or c) the presence in the body of organisms that cause disease or illness; or d) the presence in the body of organisms that are capable of causing disease or illness; or e) the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the body; or f) a disorder or malfunction that results in a person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction; or g) a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgment or that results in disturbed behaviour; or h) any other condition prescribed by regulation. 
The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 defines disability in the same terms as the ACT Discrimination Act 1991
Nationally, there is a breadth of definitions used by Government, within Government and by non-Government organisations. One of the most commonly referenced definitions is that used in the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2015 Survey on Disability, Ageing and Carers (the Survey). The Survey defines disability as a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities. 
The Survey further identifies four levels of core activity limitation based on whether a person needs helps, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with core activities. The four levels of limitation are: • Profound – the persons is unable to do, or always needs help with, a core activity task; • Severe – the person sometimes needs help with a core activity and/or has difficulties being understood and communicating without non-spoken forms of communication; • Moderate – the person needs no help, but has difficulty with a core activity task; and • Mild – the person needs no help and has no difficulty with any of the core activity tasks but uses aids or has limitations. 
Defining disability was highlighted as a focus area for improvement in the recent Doing it Differently report. Researchers highlighted that a standard definition was needed, and that any definition had to be cognisant of the following elements: • People with a disability wish to be regarded not as being provided with special advantages but as working differently. This observation should be captured in any new operational definition that emphasises difference rather than incapacity: • The current definition of disability used by the Australian Public Service (APS) needs greater clarity in regard to its treatment of employees with mental or other cognitive barriers; and • The adjustments requirements of assistive technology need to be integrated into the definition, for example, just because someone has a hearing aid doesn’t mean that their disability has been treated. 
Doing it Differently states: [T]he existing definition of disability (which is based on a deficit model) disempowers rather than empowers people with disability, particularly those with mental illness and/or requiring organisational support for assistive technology. Lack of empowerment leads to low levels of employee confidence and organisational trust. Trust remains the key to enhancing disclosure. 
Internationally, article one of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, defines persons with disabilities as those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. 
The World Health Organisation separates the definition of disability into the medical model and the social model. The medical model views disability as a problem of the person caused by disease, trauma or other health condition that requires medical care provided in the form of individual treatment by professionals. By contrast, the social model views disability as a socially created problem and a matter related to the full integration of individuals into society. That is, disability is seen as a state of existence created and enforced by an inflexible social environment failing to accommodate peoples’ needs. 
Throughout the Committee’s Inquiry, a number of submissions and witnesses highlighted the confusion between the varying definitions of disability. Enabled Employment advised the Committee that they use the ABS definition, highlighting that there is no standard definition within the sector in the ACT. Enabled Employment further noted that legislation also appeared to be lacking standardisation. 
The Committee heard that the current working definition in the ACT Government has recently been reconsidered: We decided to go with the definition as defined by the Australian Network on Disability—an impairment or condition that affects you longer than a six-month period or over a six-month period. 
The Committee heard from witnesses regarding the difficulties faced by employees who have a disability but are unaware due to the varying definitions of disability and perceptions of what qualifies them to seek assistance at work ... 
The Committee heard that the definition of disability does matter and can affect the choice to disclose a medical condition ... 
The Committee recognises that confusion in relation to what qualifies as a disability can place a significant burden on both employers and people with a disability, trying to work within complex systems associated with seeking support for employment. 
The Committee believes that there is scope for the current definition to include people who live with an ailment, or injury rather than a disability. The Committee considers this a significant risk. 
The Committee recognisees the limitations of the current definition used by the ACT Government in the content of employment support as it captures a range of disabilities experienced by people who work in the ACTPS. The Committee considers it essential that the definition be expanded and improved as a priority. The definition should have reference to mild, moderate and profound levels of disability, acknowledge mental illness and not include a length of time element.