Disability Rights: ALHR Supported Employment Submission

February 20, 2018

ALHR has provided a submission in response to the Commonwealth Department of Social Services (DSS) discussion paper, “Ensuring a Strong Future for Supported Employment

Supported employment plays a vital role in improving the social and economic participation of many people with disability in Australia. The Department of Social Services is consulting with stakeholders on the development of the Government’s supported employment policy.

The DSS paper focuses on:

  • principles to guide the Government’s future policy direction for supported employment
  • strategies to support employment participation for people with disability
  • strategies to support employers and service providers to provide effective employment opportunities, and
  • strategies to facilitate greater choice and control for NDIS participants.

ALHR commends the DSS for undertaking this review and for recognising a number of key themes related to the employment of individuals with disabilities, including recognising the differences between supported and open employment.

However, it is the view of the ALHR that the discussion paper understates the importance of recognising the human rights of individuals with disabilities and the employment rights that flow from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

ALHR calls on the DSS to ensure that its strategy for the future of supported employment of individuals with disabilities is consistent with the principles and requirements of the CRPD, with particular consideration given to promoting the open employment of individuals with disabilities and creating awareness campaigns for employers and the broader public to end the stigmatisation and discrimination faced by persons with disabilities when seeking employment.

ALHR strongly believes that Australian policy related to the employment of individuals with disabilities should adhere to international human rights law and standards.

ALHR’s submission focuses on Article 27 of the CRPD, which expresses the right to work and to employment. Under Article 27, individuals with disabilities have the right to work on an equal basis with all others. This means that:

  • any employment must be freely chosen, and
  • the work environment must be open, inclusive and accessible.

Under the Australian Government’s international human rights obligations, as well as under domestic legislation such as the Fair Work Act 2009, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and associated instruments:

  • the Federal Government must promote the right to employment for individuals with disabilities and ensure that workplaces and hiring policies are free of discrimination;
  • employers must provide equality of opportunity and provide equal remuneration for equal work; and
  • individuals with disabilities must be free from harassment and have equal access to training and career advancement.

ALHR submits that Australian employment policy direction for supported employment would be enhanced by adhering to international human rights law and the universal standards enshrined therein.

Current Australian policy relating to the employment of individuals with disabilities is discriminatory because it violates human rights norms by treating individuals with disabilities on the basis of their disability, rather than addressing the various barriers in society which may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. By focusing on their disability, the current policy effectively denies individuals with disabilities the right to exercise their choice of open employment

ALHR calls on the Department to reconsider the thrust of the discussion paper in light of the international human rights obligations guaranteed in the CRPD, and in particular, Article 27. Individuals with disabilities gain social and economic benefit from full and equal participation in employment. To realise this benefit, the employment gap between individuals with disabilities and those without must be addressed and closed.

You can read ALHR’s submission here.