12 April 2021

Disability support organisation Life Without Barriers says in a submission to the Disability Royal Commission that the community services sector is in a unique position attract people with disability to its workforce to bridge the disability employment gap.

Life Without Barriers submitted the Pathways to Employment declaration to the Disability Royal Commission to highlight the work the organisation has done in boosting its own disability workforce, as well as how this could be replicated in other community services organisations.

Life Without Barriers Chief Executive Claire Robbs said, “One in five Australians have a disability, yet only half of those of working age have secured employment. The unemployment rate for people with disability is completely unacceptable. People who are denied the right to work are also denied the independence, dignity, sense of purpose and financial benefits that work brings.”

Life Without Barriers has set firm targets for employing more people with disability, most recently pledging that 12 percent of new recruits be people with disability by 2022. Currently around 9 percent of staff identify as having disability. The organisation is educating other
organisations in the sector about their role in employing more people with disability.

“The community services industry is the fastest growing industry, with one in five new jobs created in Australia today being in our sector. If we can create pathways to employment for people with disability face in our  sector, that will go a long way to creating opportunities for people with disability to be in meaningful employment.”

The submission discusses some barriers to people with disability gaining employment, which Life Without Barriers has shared so that other organisations can find ways to overcome these. These include: 

  • Disclosure – people with disability may be reluctant to disclose this due to fear of discrimination and previous negative experiences. It’s imperative that hiring managers are trained about how to offer workplace adjustments to create a more welcoming environment for a person to share their requirements if they choose.   

  • Benevolence Bias – Care needs to be taken to ensure people with disability on our workforce are not treated as clients, rather than employees first and foremost.

  • Organisational culture – implementing a number of measures to ensure that our culture is one where people with disability are valued employees. We have partnered with the Australian Network on Disability, and established a disability employee network which supports staff with disability to come together and share ideas about how we can support people with disability, chronic health and mental health conditions.

“There are many benefits to having a workforce that reflects the diversity of our community – it ensures that companies are attracting the best talent, and we can all benefit from the contribution people with disability offer. Studies have also shown that employees and customers are more loyal to organisations that value diversity,” Ms Robbs said. It is greater than our legal obligations to disrupt barriers people face, we are all better off when people with disability have equitable employment opportunities.

Read the full submission

Learn more about Life Without Barriers employment without barriers campaign,

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