The 3rd December is International Day of Disabled Persons. In honour of this, we have looked at the obligations of an employer to ensure they uphold the rights of a person with disabilities in the workplace.
Most Australian employees are covered by the Fair Work Act 2009 which sets out not only minimum entitlements and conditions of employment, but also the rights and obligations of employers and employees alike. Section 351 of the Fair Work Act deals with Discrimination and it states that an employer must not take adverse action against an employee because of the person's ‘race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer's responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.’
Persons with disabilities, however, have certain additional rights in the workplace and these are outlined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (or the DDA). The main purpose of the DDA legislation is to provide people with protection from disability discrimination. Disability discrimination happens when people with a disability are treated less fairly than people without a disability.
Under DDA Legislation, employees with disabilities are protected from being excluded from employment which they can perform safely. The DDA goes further and makes it a workplace right of an employee to be entitled to reasonable changes (called ‘workplace adjustments’) to the employee’s work or workplace to enable them to perform their core duties (i.e. the inherent requirements of their position) safely and effectively.
Most commonly workplace adjustments are either changes to the physical environment or adjustments to work practices – a few examples include:
- Changing recruitment and selection procedures - for example providing a sign language interpreter, or making interview question available in a different format.
- Modifying the work equipment - for example lowering a workbench, providing an enlarged computer screen or changing communication systems
- Modifying the premises - for example making ramps, modifying toilets or providing flashing lights
- Changes to job design, work schedules or other work practices - for example flexible working times, working from another location, rescheduling meeting times or meal breaks.
Finally, the DDA also ensures employees are equally entitled to opportunities for professional development, promotions and working conditions.
If you as an employer or employee need any assistance in knowing your rights and/or obligations, please don’t hesitate to contact Philip at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is not legal advice.