The Australian Public Service has launched a new scheme, RecruitAbility in an effort to raise the woefully low number of people with a disability they employ.
The scheme works by fast tracking applicants who self nominate as having a disability in the recruitment process so that they are guaranteed an interview if they meet the selection criteria for the position.
RecruitAbility’s aim sounds worthy but Craig Wallace, President of People with Disability Australia, says it’s not the right measure and won’t address the core problems people with disabilities face.
“People with a disability don’t need more interviews, they need more jobs,” said Mr Wallace. “I haven’t seen strong evidence that this will work, that it will result in an increase in jobs.”
Currently, people with a disability are extremely underrepresented in the Australian Public Service. Only three per cent of people employed have a disability and this number has been decreasing for years. Those employees that do have a disability have not progressed in their careers at the same pace as their colleagues.
According to Mr Wallace the extremely low representation of people with disabilities working in the Australian Public Service shows the system is “broken” and requires stronger, more innovative solutions than simply guaranteeing an interview.
“One in five Australians have a disability. We should be seeing much higher numbers of employees with disabilities in the public service than what we are currently seeing. The public service should reflect the public it serves,” Mr Wallace said.
Mr Wallace suggests that instead of guaranteeing interviews to people with disabilities the Australian Public Service should be leading the way in innovative solutions which actually work.
His suggestions include setting enforceable targets or quotas for employing a minimum number of people with a disability and providing specialised internships and training.
Modifying the selection criteria so that people with disabilities are not locked out was another priority.
“Part of the problem is in recruitment. At the moment the public service uses standard cookie-cutter selection criteria requiring people to have a wide range of attributes rather than recruiting to individual jobs. This doesn’t serve the APS well and it has the potential to screen people with disability out. If you want someone to do filing or desk work or analytical work we should recruit for that. We should recruit to position descriptions – to actual jobs,” he said.
The Australian Public Service is not unique and similar problems exist across employers. However, Mr Wallace said that government departments need to set the standard and be a model of good behaviour.
People with disabilities need individual support and training which promotes resilience and ensures they have the resources they need to succeed in a professional environment.
“That’s one of the reasons why the NDIS is so exciting,” Mr Wallace said. “The NDIS is part of the solution.”