Closing the gap in disability employment with the Business Council of Australia

Media release

The Albanese Labor Government will continue its commitment to closing the gap on disability employment, by committing to work on a Memorandum of Understanding with the Business Council of Australia to see more Australians living with disability who want to work get access to meaningful and sustained employment.

Almost a quarter of working-aged people with disability who are not in the labour force intend to work or look for work. However, 93 per cent of unemployed people aged 15-64 with disability experience difficulties in finding employment.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said following the successful Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra, funding of up to $3.3 million will be provided to partner with the Business Council of Australia to develop a Disability Employment Initiative pilot aimed at increasing employment and improving career pathways of people with disability.

The unemployment rate for people with disability is more than double that of working age people without disability. The employment rate for working-age people with disability has remained relatively unchanged for decades.

Minister Rishworth said everyone deserved the dignity of work and that people living with disability, once employed, should also be supported into leadership roles.

“We know that 88 per cent of employed working-age people with disability do not require any specific arrangements from their employer to work, so for businesses experiencing skills shortages and crying out for workers there’s no better time than now to look to hire people living with disability,” Minister Rishworth said.

“Hiring someone living with disability should not be seen as a charitable act. It makes good business sense.

“I’m thrilled the Business Council of Australia is getting behind closing the gap in disability employment.”

Australian of The Year and Get Skilled Access founder Dylan Alcott said the partnership was a “huge step” forward.

“A partnership of this nature is a huge step in building inclusive businesses and recognising the skills, capabilities and innovative thinking people with disability bring to employers. It is great to see that through the Jobs and Skills Summit, the Department of Social Services and the business community has already implemented an immediate action that will make a difference to closing the gap. However this is just the start,” Mr Alcott said.

“We need to continue to listen to lived experience, invest in building capacity, lift our expectations of what people with disability can do in the workplace, and continue to provide opportunities across all industries to make sure people with disability have the choice to find the employment if they see fit.”

The Disability Employment Initiative pilot secured as part of the MoU will leverage off the success of the National Indigenous Australians Agency Employment Parity Initiative model, which resulted in over 11,000 jobs for Indigenous Australians.

The Business Council of Australia are currently undertaking a survey of their members on disability inclusion and employment practices and this will inform the approach taken to increase the disability workforce including in management positions, and by partnering with employers in a demand led model.

Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the business community was committed to ensuring people with barriers to employment were not held back.

“Businesses are committed to creating more inclusive workplaces that give everyone the opportunity to reach their full potential. We look forward to working with government to design a program that unlocks opportunity for Australians with disability and tears down the barriers that keep people out of the workforce,” Ms Westacott said.

“This isn’t just the right thing to do; it is a national economic imperative. Reducing the gap between the participation and unemployment rates of people with disability by one-third would deliver a $43 billion economic dividend.”

Businesses participating in this pilot will be expected to have:

a demonstrated commitment to increasing the employment of people with disability; and
a demonstrated capacity to support people with disability such as having employee support networks, human resource policies and practices and training support.
They will receive incentives and support directly linked to positive employment outcomes with a focus on career advancement and middle management roles. Outcomes will be negotiated according to the organisation, industry and footprint.

In return, these businesses will be expected to:

publically commit to increasing their total disability workforce
contribute their own cash or in-kind support as part of the program; and
utilise specialist services which could include National Disability Recruitment Co-ordinator, The Field (Get Skilled Access) and RecruitAble.
The $3.3 million funding will be allocated over two years from 2022 – 2024.

The Government will also look to discuss other MoUs with other business organisations who wish to take up similar initiatives