Employer obligations for disabled employees

Employers must be mindful of disability laws to make sure they do not discriminate in their recruitment and workplace procedures. Workplace laws differ for each state, but the Disability Discrimination Act applies to all of Australia and lays the foundations for defining this kind of prejudice.

What is discrimination?
Disability discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably or not given the same opportunities as others in a similar situation because of their disability. Discrimination can be both direct and indirect. Refusing to interview or hire individuals solely because they are disabled, is direct discrimination. Indirect discrimination occurs when employers put in place conditions or requirements that appear to treat everyone the same but in reality do not. For example, requiring a deaf employee to attend meetings where there is no interpreter would be indirect discrimination.

The law acknowledges that in some circumstances treating someone differently because of their disability is justified because their disability means they cannot perform the inherent requirements of the job. However, the employer must consider reasonable adjustments that could help them complete these functions.

Exemptions
The Discrimination Act lists the following exceptions for refusing to employ an individual because they are disabled:

  • The decision is justified on public health grounds
  • Reasonable differences in the provision of insurance and superannuation
  • Combat positions in the Australian Defence force or Australian Federal Police

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