The Australian Public Service Commission launched the As One: Making it Happen, the APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016-19 on 31 May 2016. Australian Public Service Commissioner the Hon. John Lloyd reflects on its importance, and on his own personal experience with disability.
The Australian public sector is well placed to lead the way in disability employment. Our workforce is large and geographically dispersed, and provides services to all Australians. We can make a real difference as an employer and a role model.
The Strategy, developed in consultation with APS agencies and peak disability bodies sets out actions to increase the recruitment of people with disability. It sets out actions to ensure that employees with disability have opportunities for career progression and to ensure workplaces are accessible and inclusive.
The APSC has developed a range of resources to assist agencies implement the strategy including an Implementation Guide for HR managers, a manager’s toolkit and resources for employees. These can all be found at the Disability page on the APSC website.
A number of people today have been willing to talk about their own personal experiences and I thank them for that and admire them for doing it.
I’d also like to today share my own personal experience which will help to explain why myself and the Australian Public Service Commission is very committed to the Strategy.
Twenty-two years ago in 1994 one of our children passed away at Calvary Hospital. Ruth was 16 years old and had cerebral palsy. She never spoke and never walked, so as a parent I’ve travelled the whole journey. From the despair and the worry of finding out the prognosis after about one year, the elation at small wins, the despair at many reversals, 40 admissions to hospital, and 5 near death experiences then finally watching her pass away.
This taught you a lot about life, I found that you, acquired a deep understanding of the mysteries, the meaning and the sanctity of life and also of course you had an enormous amount of support from friends and helpers, who, were very kind and, made a great contribution to help Ruth and us through difficult periods.
And then like a lot of public servants, some years after, after all that, I decided to, offer some work back to the community, so I’ve been on the board of a number of organisations, the Cerebral Palsy Association in Western Australia, it’s now the Brand Institute, Hartley Life Care here in Canberra and also Scope in Victoria. All of those bodies are private non-government outfits dedicated to help people with intellectual disability.
[quote]And of course when you do those sorts of jobs it’s a privilege because you meet so many outstanding Australians. People who are the clients themselves and their carers dealing with enormous challenges everyday often with fantastic spirit, the staff who dedicate their careers to helping people with intellectual or other impairments and of course the volunteers, these organisations can’t work without extraordinary Australians who step up and volunteer to help in so many ways.[/quote]
So that’s my story, its personal, but it does, I think, underline why I will be very committed to the Strategy and will ensure that the APSC gives it its full support, Ruth would expect nothing less of us.
Making it Happen, APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016–19
The As One: Australian Public Service Disability Employment Strategy, first published in 2012, set an agenda for change and delivery of improved Australian Public Service (APS) employment opportunities for people with disability.
As One: Making it Happen, APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016–19 builds on the initiatives and momentum of the first strategy to improve the employment experience of people with disability in the APS. As One: Making it Happen forms part of the Commonwealth’s response to the National Disability Strategy 2010–20.
Approximately one in five Australians identify as a person with disability. Improving the representation of people with disability in the workforce will enable the APS to respond more capably to the needs of the community. By representing the Australian population’s diversity, we are better placed to communicate, understand and meet the full range of needs.
With an ageing workforce and shrinking labour market, it is important to be an employer of choice. This requires agencies to be disability confident and offer rewarding careers in which people with disability are supported to perform at their best.
Rates of disability are significantly higher among Indigenous Australians. As One: Making it Happen complements the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy 2015 by seeking to improve representation of Indigenous Australians with disability in the APS.
Our goal is to increase the representation of employees with disability across the APS, including Indigenous people with disability. [quote]We need to offer people with disability multiple pathways into the public service and offer existing employees with disability better career opportunities. We must also increase the representation of employees with disability in senior leadership positions.[/quote]
As One: Making it Happen provides a roadmap towards improved representation of people with disability in the APS workforce. It has been informed by consultations with employees with disability, APS agencies and community and private sector bodies working in the disability field.
Actions to achieve our goal
All agencies are responsible for improving the representation of people with disability in their workforce. All employees have an obligation to engage with, and contribute to, initiatives that support employment of people with disability in the APS. The initiatives also require the support of employees with disability; their ideas and participation are essential in making the APS as inclusive as possible.
APS agencies need to implement a feasible plan that delivers results. As One: Making it Happen focuses on four key action areas which all include a focus on Indigenous people with disability. These are:
- Expand the range of employment opportunities for people with disability
- Invest in developing the capability of employees with disability
- Increase the representation of employees with disability in senior roles
- Foster inclusive cultures in the workplace.
Principles that guide agencies’ actions
Sustainable improvement in representation of people with disability will be driven by the following principles:
- Accountability—the head of each APS agency is accountable for improving the representation of people with disability in their workforce.
- Leadership—all APS leaders must participate and take real action to drive improvements in the employment of people with disability.
- Capability—the public service must have inclusive and accessible workplaces where employees with disability are supported and valued for their contribution and where managers encourage flexible working arrangements.
- Partnership—between APS agencies, non-government organisations and the private sector, to improve employment outcomes for people with disability and share best practice.
Measuring and reporting against action areas
The success of our actions will be measured by:
- an increase in the number of people with disability who come to work for the APS
- an improvement in reported job satisfaction for employees with disability
- an increase in the number of people with disability in senior leadership roles
- an increase in the number of employees who identify as having disability in agency human resource systems
This information is collected by the Australian Public Service Commission annually.
Suite of actions
Agencies have different needs. In recognition of this, a suite of actions is set out under each of the four key action areas. Agencies should adopt those actions best suited to their needs.
The Australian Public Service Commission will publish practical resources for disability employment, including agency programs and policies to share on its website. This will allow agencies to collaborate on initiatives and achieve greater impact within existing resources. These resources will be updated regularly.
Expand the range of employment opportunities for people with disability
To improve representation, agencies should review and expand the opportunities they offer to people with disability. Agencies should adopt a range of contemporary recruitment approaches to increasing the representation of people with disability in their workforce.
- Apply the RecruitAbility* scheme to a broad range of vacancies, including graduate programs and Senior Executive Service roles, to maximise opportunities for people with disability.
- Expand pathways into APS employment, including through the use of disability affirmative measures in the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2013 and the use of internships.
- Ensure recruitment and selection teams are disability aware and confident.
- Partner with disability employment service providers, universities and disability peak bodies to promote awareness of the range of jobs in the APS and to reach more job seekers with disability.
- Promote government procurement from businesses that employ people with a disability.
Invest in developing the capability of employees with disability
Employees with disability should be equipped to progress their careers at the same rate as others in the workplace and have equal opportunity to demonstrate their suitability for promotion.
Making reasonable adjustments helps create a level playing field and enables employees with disability to perform at their best.
- Make the workplace accessible.
- Make workplace adjustments where required, including job design and flexible work arrangements, to maximise productivity.
- Implement adjustments—including assistive technology—quickly to enable productivity.
- Provide support for managers and colleagues of people with disability. For example, increase managers’ uptake of Mental Health First Aid training and disability awareness training.
Increase the representation of employees with disability in senior roles
At the heart of change is leadership. Our leaders are stewards of our values—they communicate our priorities and encourage and reward us to perform well. People with disability should be well-represented at senior management levels.
- Ensure the inclusion of middle managers with disability in development programs for high performers.
- Offer career development opportunities to middle managers with disability who demonstrate consistent high performance.
- Provide senior mentors across the APS for employees with disability who have identified a desire to develop.
- Attract people with disability at senior levels from the community and private sectors.
Foster inclusive cultures in the workplace
- To improve the recruitment and retention of employees with disability, agencies need workplaces that are genuinely inclusive.
- Employees with disability will be more likely to tell their employer they have a disability, particularly when experiencing mental ill health, if they are confident they will be welcomed in the workplace.
- Workforce inclusion needs to be a priority for all managers, staff and colleagues, not just those working in human resources. Everyone has a role to play.
- Highlight the value of APS Disability Champions as visible advocates for employees with disability—and champions of change within agencies.
- Leverage the skills and experiences of people with disability to identify and overcome barriers, whether physical, systemic or attitudinal.
- Offer training to improve disability awareness and address unconscious bias.
- Integrate disability awareness principles into existing management development and orientation programs.
- Expand disability networks to support implementation of inclusive cultures within agencies.
* RecruitAbility is a scheme where applicants with disability who opt into the scheme and meet minimum requirements of the role are progressed to the next stage in the selection process. For further details see: www.apsc.gov.au/priorities/disability/recruitability.