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Employment Plan - People with a Disability

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Section 1 - Introduction

(1) This Plan reviews and updates Charles Sturt University's original Employment Plan for People with a Disability. It provides detailed development of Objective 13 of the University's Disability Access Plan lodged with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in March 2002.

(2) People who have a disability continue to be disadvantaged with regard to access to employment opportunities. The ABS Disability Survey (1998) reported that 19% (3.6 million people) had a disability in Australia. Figures on employment showed that 53% of people with a disability between 15 and 64 years of age were employed compared to 80% of people without disabilities in the same age range. 11.5% of people with a disability were unemployed compared with 7.8% of people without disabilities. Barriers to employment experienced by people with a disability include difficulties in accessing education (especially at the tertiary level), lack of skill based training in the labour market, lack of work experience, employer attitudes and inhospitable workplace design.

(3) Legislation prohibiting discrimination on the ground of disability in employment and education exists at both the state and federal level (see Associated Information). The NSW legislation also places an obligation on employers to promote employment opportunities for people with a disability and requires public sector employers to report on the steps taken to do so.

(4) Charles Sturt University maintains its commitment to improving employment opportunities for people with a disability. The University has in the past actively accommodated the needs of staff with a disability (both those appointed with a disability and those who have developed a disability during the term of their employment) in the provision of equipment, job redesign, and provision of physical access where required. This Plan aims to further the efforts of the University in this area and increase access to employment at the University for members of the community who have a disability. It also aims to ensure that people who acquire a disability after commencing work at the University (including those who acquire a disability outside the work place) are not disadvantaged in the workplace.

(5) The following objectives were established in the University's original Employment Plan for People with a disability. This document seeks to build on these objectives and to provide employees with information regarding the University's objectives and policies for the employment of people with a disability.

Objectives

(6) To raise the profile of the University in the local community as an equal opportunity employer.

(7) To raise awareness among the University community of the contribution that may be made by people with a disability.

(8) To ensure that people with a disability who apply for vacant positions are treated fairly and assessed on their merits.

(9) To accommodate the needs of staff with a disability in terms of job design and provision of equipment, training and development and physical access.

(10) To take positive steps to increase the recruitment and appointment of people with a disability in the University.

(11) To develop strategies to take advantage of government funding initiatives aimed at providing training and employment opportunities for people with a disability.

(12) To assist in the provision of training and placement opportunities that will enable people with a disability to develop the necessary work skills and confidence to further their employment opportunities.

(13) To endeavour to continue the employment of staff whose performance is affected by a disability acquired whilst in the University's employment, through job redesign, redeployment, retraining or rehabilitation.

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Section 2 - University Policy

(14) In accordance with legislation, the University's Equal Opportunity Policy commits it to:

  1. preventing discrimination and harassment in employment and education on a number of grounds, including disability;
  2. implementing fair and inclusive management and administrative practices that enable a broader level of participation in employment and education; and
  3. developing equal opportunity programs that, in keeping with the principle of advancement by merit, aim to redress the effects of past discrimination.

(15) The University is committed to improving employment opportunities for, and increasing the participation of, people with a disability within the institution. This may require that specific measures be taken: firstly, to provide every opportunity for people with a disability to participate in, and contribute to, all aspects of University life; and secondly, to provide an environment which takes account of the particular needs of people with a disability to enable full and equal participation.

(16) The Employment Plan for People with a Disability has been developed as part of the University's Equal Opportunity Program .

(17) Responsibility for implementing the Plan lies primarily with Executive Deans, Executive Directors and Managers with assistance from the Division of Human Resources.

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Section 3 - Aim

(18) The aim of this Plan is to provide a framework for achieving a work environment that is free of barriers to, and actively supports, the employment of people with a disability, leading to an increase in the number of people with a disability employed by the University. The Plan seeks to provide information in an accessible way that will empower managers and employees to approach disability issues in a positive and non-discriminatory manner.

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Section 4 - Principles

(19) The University will manage disability employment issues as part of its overall human resource management strategy. The University considers the management of disability issues in the workplace a priority task that contributes to business success and the achievement of diversity goals.

(20) The University's Employment Plan for People with a Disability will include provision for:

  1. recruitment of jobseekers with disabilities, including those who have not worked before and those who wish to return to work after a period of non employment;
  2. equal opportunity and fair employment practice for people with a disability; and
  3. job retention by employees who acquire a disability.

(21) The Employment Plan for People with a Disability will be linked to University procedures associated with a safe and healthy workplace, including:

  1. the provision of occupational health and safety measures;
  2. early intervention, referral and treatment to facilitate rehabilitation for those who acquire a disability while in employment; and
  3. a mentoring system to foster the integration of new employees with disabilities.

(22) The Employment Plan for People with a Disability will complement the University's human resource management strategy in its aim to maximize the contributions and abilities of all staff, including those with disabilities.

(23) Management of employees who acquire a disability whilst in the employment of the University will comply with WorkCover regulations with regard to treatment, rehabilitation and safe return to work.

(24) The University will form co-operative relationships with relevant employment services (see Appendix D) in matching jobseekers with a disability to jobs suited to their ability, work capacity and interest, and in redeploying workers whose capacity has changed to other jobs or alternative working schedules. Where necessary, provision will also be made for adjustments to the job, work schedule, work station or workplace and for other supports to the worker with a disability to ensure that she or he can perform the job effectively

(25) The University will ensure through human resource management and EEO processes that people with a disability are treated equitably in their employment.

(26) The University is mindful of the compound disadvantage experienced by women with a disability and will consider this factor in targeting positions and when negotiating with disability employment services.

(27) The University will seek to accommodate the needs of workers who have caring responsibilities for a person with a disability, according to its policy on Balancing Work and Family Responsibilities . Flexible work arrangements include working flexible hours, access to negotiated unpaid leave, negotiated transfer to part-time hours and paid Carer's Leave.

(28) The University will work collaboratively with people with a disability, and disability employment and advocacy services, to develop employment and training opportunities for people with a disability, including job retention and return to work measures for workers who acquire a disability.

(29) The University will consult with employees with a disability or their representatives in the development and review of the Employment Plan for People with a Disability.

(30) The University will maintain up to date information about disability employment legislation, including WorkCover requirements for rehabilitation and return to work when an employee acquires a disability as a result of workplace injury or accident. It will also maintain up to date information about assistance available for employees with disabilities that have not been acquired as a result of workplace injury or accident, including wage subsidies, funds for workplace modifications, mobility allowances and disability wage programs.

(31) Responsibility for implementing the Employment Plan for People with a Disability will lie with Faculties and Divisions, with assistance from the Division of Human Resources (recruitment, injury management and equal opportunity staff).

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Section 5 - Disability Awareness Training

(32) The Division of Human Resources will continue to run general and specialist training aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of issues associated with disability, removing misconceptions and developing an appreciation of the abilities of people who are perceived as disabled. Disability awareness sessions will be provided for staff on a periodical basis.

(33) The University will seek input from specialist agencies such as the Disability Advocacy Network, if necessary, in planning information and awareness raising sessions in the workplace.

(34) Managers and staff will be made aware of the University's Employment Plan for People with a Disability through induction processes.

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Section 6 - Recruitment, Interviewing, Selection and Induction of People with a Disability

General Recruitment

(35) In preparing for recruitment:

  1. Recruitment Officers will endeavour to ensure that the principle of non discrimination will be respected throughout the recruitment process, to ensure maximum benefit to the University and equitable opportunities for candidates with and without disabilities. Access to potential applicants with disabilities will be facilitated through relationships with disability employment agencies which will be encouraged to scan the University's recruitment web page on a regular basis.
  2. In preparing for recruitment of people with a disability to targeted positions, a full investigation of relevant advertising networks will be undertaken.
  3. Advertisements for positions that are targeted for people with a disability should indicate the University's preparedness to make adjustments to the workplace to accommodate a disability. In preparing job descriptions for targeted positions the Division of Human Resources will focus on the specific job(s) to be filled and the core competencies, qualifications and experience required. The opinions of current or previous jobholders or their supervisors or worker representatives could be sought in identifying essential and non-essential job functions.

(36) Interviewing

  1. Where pre-employment tests and screening are used:
    1. the focus will be on the specific skills, knowledge and abilities regarded as essential to the functions of the vacant job; and
    2. care will be taken to ensure that screening tests are in a format that is accessible to applicants who disclose that they have a disability.

      Any medical examination required by the University should be directly related to the needs of the position and the principle of 'reasonable adjustment' should be applied to an appointee with a disability.
  2. In selecting interview panels, where an applicant discloses that they have a disability the Division of Human Resources will ensure that people with an awareness of disability issues and how these might be managed in the workplace are represented on the panel. This could be facilitated by including an existing employee with a disability on the panel.
  3. The University will take into consideration ways of enabling applicants with sensory or mobility impairments or intellectual disability to participate and perform at interviews on an equal basis with other applicants. For example:
    1. allowing an advocate to be present for an applicant with an intellectual disability;
    2. permitting a sign language interpreter to be present for an applicant who is deaf or an applicant with a language disorder; or
    3. ensuring access to both the building and room for an applicant in a wheelchair and ensuring that the interview environment is not disempowering with regard to positioning.
  4. In issuing invitations to attend interviews Recruitment Officers will:
    1. encourage applicants to state in advance any special arrangements they may require in order to participate in the interview; and
    2. ensure that accommodations are made where possible to provide the most enabling environment for applicants.
  5. Any adjustments in the recruitment process to take account of an applicant's disability, such as those noted above, should be communicated to the applicant.
  6. In considering an applicant with a disability for a specific job the University will:
    1. be open to making adjustments, if required in the workplace, work station and work conditions to maximise the ability of the applicant to perform the duties of the position;
    2. seek advice from specialist disability agencies on modifications and adjustments and, where possible, avail itself of funding to undertake such modifications; and
    3. plan any required adjustment in consultation with the person with the disability and any other staff who might be affected by the adjustment.
  7. Applicants who indicate that they have a disability and who meet the essential criteria should be interviewed. Without interview it may be difficult for the selection committee to compare applicants effectively and fairly since the route by which an applicant with a disability develops skills and obtains experience may be very different from that of other applicants. Conventional methods of assessing applications may not enable proper assessment of the merits of an applicant with a disability, thereby disadvantaging the applicant and possibly incurring loss to the University in terms of a potentially valuable appointee.
  8. In order to satisfy itself that the applicant can meet the inherent requirements of the position, the selection committee may explore with the applicant any potential barriers to effective performance that could arise out of the environment and examine feasible solutions. That is, the selection committee may explore with the applicant the means to accommodate their disability so that they can perform the core duties of the position effectively. However, selection committees should be careful to ensure that all questions are framed in terms of the requirements of the position. It is not lawful to make a request for information about a disability over and above that which is reasonably intended as a means of identifying necessary adjustments.
  9. Where the selection committee is uncertain about the suitability of an applicant with a disability, either because of the nature of the disability or restrictive barriers in the work place, advice should be sought from the HR Co-ordinator (EO) and outside experts (such as the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service) in order to avoid the possibility of making a decision which is discriminatory.

Selection decisions

(37) Selection decisions should be made on the basis of merit. However, it is important that merit is not simply assessed in terms of access to past opportunities. An applicant with a disability may not have had the same opportunities to obtain the same level of qualifications and work experience as other applicants. However, they may well be able to demonstrate in other ways that they have the skills and abilities to perform the duties of the position at a competitive level. These should be explored in a way that is empowering for the candidate during the interview.

(38) In assessing the applicant's ability to undertake the duties of the vacant position the selection committee should apply the principle of reasonable adjustment. The University has a commitment to equal employment opportunity for people with a disability. In accordance with anti-discrimination law it also has an obligation to eliminate barriers to the employment of people with a disability by making appropriate adjustments to the work environment wherever it is necessary, possible and reasonable to do so to minimise the impact of the disability. This may require the provision of special equipment or rearranging the work schedule or peripheral duties of the position to accommodate the disability. (See Appendix B - Reasonable Adjustment). Any identified workplace adjustment requirements will be assessed according to the University's Policy on Reasonable Adjustment for People with a Disability once the selection committee has recommended appointment.

(39) It is not discriminatory for a selection committee to refuse to appoint an applicant to a position if the applicant is unable to perform the inherent requirements of the position because of their disability and this cannot be remedied by making a reasonable adjustment. It is not discriminatory for the University to discontinue the probation of an appointee if, after making reasonable adjustment, the appointee is unable to perform the inherent requirements of the position.

Recruitment for Targeted Positions

Developing the framework for recruitment to targeted positions

(40) The University's original Employment Plan for People with a Disability proposed and implemented an affirmative action measure to increase employment opportunities for people with a disability at the University and widen the experience of existing staff in working with people with a disability. To this end Divisions and Faculties were encouraged to participate in government subsidised work experience and training programs for people with a disability. The University successfully employed 10 people with a disability requiring work place adjustments over the period of the original plan (1993-1996). There are currently 31 people with a disability requiring work place adjustments employed at the University. Building on the original plan the following proposals are made to extend the programme.

(41) The University will develop and maintain relationships with specialist disability employment services by establishing clear channels of communication with such services.

(42) The University will commit to providing work opportunities for people with a disability by setting targets and reviewing these on an annual basis.

(43) In providing targeted positions the University, in collaboration with disability employment and training services, will seek to identify:

  1. task elements of existing jobs which might be combined into one or more new jobs suitable for people with a disability;
  2. positions that can be modified easily to accommodate the specific needs of a person with a disability through job redesign, physical access, etc;
  3. positions that may be suitable for a traineeship undertaken by a person with a disability;
  4. opportunities for apprenticeships that may be filled by a young person with a disability under the Disabled Apprentices Wages Subsidy Scheme (See Appendix E);
  5. opportunities for work experience programmes for people with a disability that may lead to sustained employment outcomes; and
  6. positions where knowledge of the experiences of people with a disability might be an advantage in performing the duties of the position.

(44) Where a position is targeted under this plan, the rules governing the advertising of vacant positions will be set aside insofar as selection procedures may be adopted specifically to recruit people with a disability.

(45) The Division of Human Resources will provide assistance in placing recruits under government funded employment and training programs and in developing job related training plans, which may include on-the-job training, in-house training, external training or some combination of the former.

Placement and post placement support for employees with disabilities filling targeted positions

(46) The University will work collaboratively with disability employment services in the placement, training and support of employees recruited through such agencies. Where applicable, the University will allow the agency access to the workplace to assess needs and provide job coaching to the employee. In the case of people with intellectual disabilities, negotiations with agencies for job coaching will take place in conjunction with an assigned work supervisor.

(47) Like all staff, an employee with a disability recruited through the University's targeted employment program should be given feedback about their work performance. Where particular problems are identified, the supervisor should act in a timely manner and explore ways of overcoming them. Assistance may be sought from the Division of Human Resources and external specialist organisations, notably disability employment services. This is critical where such a service has been involved in the work placement.

(48) As an alternative to immediate recruitment the University will consider the provision of work trials for people with a disability in collaboration with disability employment services. This arrangement allows the University to assess an individual's ability and capacity and may in some cases lead to recruitment. Work trials provide people with a disability with the opportunity to gain work experience, thereby increasing their subsequent employment potential.

Induction and Continuing Support

(49) Induction will be provided for each new employee with a disability in the same way as for other workers. At induction new staff with a disability will be introduced to the University's Equal Opportunity Policy and the Employment Plan for People with a Disability, and provided with support and advice on any existing facilities on the campus that may be relevant. This will include advice about the University's Employee Assistance Program .

(50) Supervisors will ensure that information essential to the job and workplace, such as job instructions, work manuals, information on staff rules, grievance procedures or health and safety guidelines/procedures is communicated to employees with disabilities in a format which ensures they are fully informed. For example:

  1. using a deaf language interpreter for new employees who are deaf;
  2. through on site job coaching using a disability employment specialist service for employees with intellectual disabilities.

(51) Supervisors should give particular consideration to the safety of the new staff member, ensuring that the staff member is aware of procedures to follow in an emergency and that such procedures are appropriate to the staff member's circumstances.

(52) Supervisors will ensure that any agreed disability related adjustments to the work environment, work station or work schedule are implemented and will consult with the new staff member to fine tune these as necessary. The Division of Human Resources should be contacted when such an adjustment is required. Where advice on tailoring job design or equipment options is needed, relevant professionals from local disability employment services will be engaged and outside funding accessed where possible.

(53) Supervisors will be responsible for briefing staff in the section on any particular arrangements necessitated by the appointment that will affect them. However, confidentiality should be maintained where no particular arrangements are required and as requested by the appointee.

(54) Where appropriate, the supervisor will nominate a staff member to act as a support person to an appointee with a disability to assist with orientation to the University and the section and foster the inclusion of the appointee in work breaks, training and social activities. This will be done in consultation with the appointee and, where a disability employment support agency is involved, the relevant personnel.

(55) Where employees with hearing impairments are recruited, the section head should contact the TAFE Consultant for the Deaf to provide training in basic sign language to managers, supervisors and work colleagues to facilitate better communication with employees.

Training and Career Development

(56) It is important that supervisors ensure that staff members who have a disability receive adequate on the job training and have equal opportunities with other staff to access training, career development and promotion. In addition, the University will endeavour to provide any training necessary to accommodate the particular needs of staff with a disability.

(57) Where staff members are recruited through government employment and training schemes, pre employment training and assistance with on the job training may be provided by outside agencies. The University will give staff from such agencies access to the workplace as required for the purpose of job coaching and skill development.

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Section 7 - Job Retention for Employees Who Acquire a Disability or Non Compensable Injury

Assistance in Maintaining Employment

(58) Where employees acquire a non work related disability, the University will assist them to retain employment. This will include access to early intervention and referral to rehabilitation services. The Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service (CRS) Job in Jeopardy Program should be accessed for rehabilitation services (see Appendix E).

Accommodations and Adjustments

(59) Where necessary, the University will allow for a gradual resumption to work.

(60) The following work adjustments/accommodations could be considered for employees who acquire a disability:

  1. reorganisation of duties;
  2. removal of disabling barriers;
  3. provision of special equipment;
  4. flexible working patterns;
  5. rehabilitation programs.

(61) Managers should contact the Division of Human Resources to assess the nature and costs of any adjustment required. Where a cost is involved in acquiring specialised equipment or modifying the work environment to accommodate the disability, assistance with funding can be sought through the Division of Human Resources (see Policy on Reasonable Adjustment for People with a Disability).

(62) A disability may develop gradually - for example, loss of hearing or sight. Sometimes this can impact on work performance while the employee is attempting to identify and adjust to the change taking place. If an issue of underlying disability emerges while an employee is being counselled for unsatisfactory performance and it is possible that the disability contributed to the unsatisfactory performance, the Division of Human Resources should be contacted to assess the need for reasonable adjustment.

Assistance with Adjustment/Reintegration into Work

(63) Employees who acquire a non-compensable injury/disability should contact the Division of Human Resources if they experience any difficulty in relation to duties, adjustments or other issues associated with their reintegration into the workplace. Division of Human Resources staff will work with the individual and the supervisor to resolve issues in a non-discriminatory way.

(64) The University will also provide disability awareness training to staff in the work area, advocacy, mediation or access to the Employee Assistance programme where a staff member experiences difficulty reintegrating into the workplace following an absence due to disability, illness or injury.

Transfer to Another Position

(65) If, as a result of acquiring a disability, an employee is no longer able to undertake the duties of their position and the situation cannot be addressed by reasonable adjustment, the University, in consultation with the employee, will explore the possibility of transfer to a more suitable position.

(66) The Division of Human Resources will assist the employee to identify suitable vacant positions at an equivalent level.

(67) Where a suitable position is available, a work trial period may be negotiated with the relevant work area prior to advertisement. If the work trial is deemed to be successful, the employee will be transferred to the new position.

(68) Cessation of employment will only be considered in circumstances where it can be demonstrated that all avenues have been exhausted and the employee is unable to perform the inherent requirements of the job.

Summary of Major Strategies for Promoting the University as an Employer that is Committed to Equal Employment Opportunity for People with a Disability

(69) The University will promote itself to disability employment service providers in its region (see Appendix D) and encourage these to bookmark and regularly scan the University's recruitment web page.

(70) Copies of the Employment Plan for People with a Disability will be widely circulated within the University including to section heads, occupational health and safety officers, rehabilitation co-ordinators and employees with disabilities. Copies will also be distributed to Employee Assistance providers.

(71) Copies of the Employment Plan for People with a Disability will be provided to relevant disability employment service providers.

(72) Clear lines of communication between disability employment services and each campus of the University will be established. Collaborative relationships with disability employment providers will be fostered through such channels.

(73) The University will provide work training opportunities for people with a disability in collaboration with disability employment service providers - set targets for these and identify work training positions that may lead to genuine sustainable employment for people with a disability at the University. (See - Appendix E re work training schemes and work subsidies and funding programs for people with a disability).

(74) The University will establish procedures to enable staff members who have a disability to access funding for workplace modifications and publicise these procedures internally.

(75) The University will set and review targets regarding the employment of people with a disability on an annual basis.