Pilot program aims to tackle the workplaces failing Australia’s disabled jobseekers

Australia has a woeful record on employment for jobseekers with disability

Pilot program aims to tackle the workplaces failing Australia’s disabled jobseekers

A new government-funded pilot has been announced to tackle the inaccessibility of Australia’s workplaces for jobseekers with disabilities. The RecuitAble program involving Randstad Australia and Get Skilled Access aims to challenge misconceptions and develop a best practice approach for the recruitment of people with disability. Spanning 12-18 months, the initiative will involve five large employers and two small to medium enterprises.

The employment rate among working age people with a disability currently sits at 48% - compared to 80% for those without disability – and has barely changed over the past two decades. Instead, underemployment has increased as more people with disability enter part-time work.

As a nation, Australia has one of the lowest disability employment rates among OECD members, sitting within the bottom ten, and campaigners have long called for robust action to improve the accessibility in workplaces across the country.

Read more: More than half of Australia's workers hide true selves at work: Study

Speaking to HRD, Dani Fraillon, chief operating officer at Get Skilled Access, said the pilot aims to make mainstream employment more accessible by tackling three main areas – job readiness among candidates, recruitment best-practice and educating employers to support those with disabilities in the workplace.

“The pilot is about seeing what needs to happen in order for people with disability to feel really comfortable about using the mainstream system for finding a job,” Fraillon said. “We know that the unemployment rate for people with disability has not changed and is very low, so we’re working with the government to understand and talk to them about what needs to change.”

So why has Australia’s disability employment rate remained stagnant for so long? Fraillon said a combination of factors are in play, including flaws in the Disability Employment Services system and a lack of action from employers.

“A lot of employers haven't really done much development and don't necessarily understand the way in which a person with disability could be employed,” she said. “Often employers think what is the role a person with disability could do? As opposed to what is the role and we're open to anybody, with or without disability, to actually deliver on that role.”

Read more: Neurodiverse jobseekers still facing significant barriers from entering workforce: study

Kerry McQuillan, Randstad’s QLD state director and national diversity & inclusion lead, said jobseekers with disability have been “consistently let down” by poor recruiting practice.

“I am excited for Randstad to work with Get Skilled Access on a pilot that gives people with disabilities the confidence to seek work through a mainstream recruitment company,” she told HRD.

“If successful, we hope others will take on board new practices that create an inclusive hiring experience.”

The pilot launch comes ahead of next week’s budget which is expected to include reforms in three key care sectors – aged care, disabilities and mental health – in a bid to drive more jobs. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is expected to announce plans to drive Australia’s unemployment rate to below 5% - a figure not seen since the 1980s mining boom.

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