The Disability Discrimination Act in Australia

The Disability Discrimination Act – Does It Affect You?

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 protects Australians from being discriminated against on the basis of disability in all walks of life.

This post focusses on how the Disability Discrimination Act links in with Australian employment law and prevents employers from treating a person unfairly on the grounds of disability.

Employers responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act

The Disability Discrimination Act covers businesses, contract work and partnerships, as well as trade unions, employment agencies and qualification bodies. Under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act, employers must offer equal opportunities to every candidate.

If someone with a disability applies for a role and meets the specifications of that role, they have to be given as much of a chance as an able-bodied person who also fulfils the job requirements.

Employers must refrain from making assumptions about the disabled person’s ability to do the job. A decision to employ someone should be based on whether or not they can perform their role, not on what their disability may or may not prevent them from doing.

The Disability Discrimination Act covers the entire recruitment process.

  • Any recruitment materials cannot discourage disabled candidates from applying.
  • In relation to terms of employment, such as rates of pay, working hours or annual leave allowance, a disabled member of staff cannot be looked upon unfavourably (or favourably, for that matter).

Do employers have to make changes to the workplace?

If a person with a disability is employed after the recruitment process, the employer must make any ‘workplace adjustments’ required for them to do their job. Workplace adjustments could include:

  • Modifying the office. For example, by introducing ramps and lower desks for wheelchair-bound staff or magnified computer monitors for those with a visual disability.
  • Allowing for special requirements. If a workplace bans eating at the desk, this rule could be disregarded for someone with diabetes.
  • Providing assistance. Depending on their disability, a member of staff could require a trained mediator to help them interpret certain aspects of the role.

Exemptions to the Disability Discrimination Act

Occasionally, treating a disabled person differently isn’t against the law. For example, a blind person couldn’t be a driving instructor as they don’t meet the inherent requirements of the role.

If the ‘workplace adjustments’ needed to accommodate a disabled member of staff causes ‘unjustifiable hardship’ to an employer, this can be taken into account. Unjustifiable hardship requires proof on the part of the employer.

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