How to rejoin the workforce after acquiring a disability - Fact Sheet
The alarm clock goes off. It's six
o'clock on a Monday morning - the start of the working week and the
first of five days until the weekend. Unfortunately, the privilege
of grumbling about work or fighting with the doona on a cold
winter's morning is not given to everyone.
In 2009 this privilege was given to 54.3% of people with
disability compared to 83% of people without disability. Five years
on, we can hope that diversity-championing campaigns and
disability-positive employers have seen this disproportion reduce,
but there is definitely more that can be done to ensure people with
disability are employed.
The benefits of employment are undeniable - increased financial
freedom and independence, and the opportunity to establish a
routine, boost confidence, form strong social networks and improve
overall health and wellbeing. These benefits are most apparent to
people who have been forced to stop working due to changed
circumstances, such as acquiring a disability.
What can job seekers do to return to
work after acquiring disability?
Since 2006, the Government's Disability Employment Services (DES)
program (originally the Disability Employment Network) has provided
a supportive structure for job seekers with disability to commence
in or re-enter the workforce. The Government contracts providers to
deliver wrap-around services, which includes pre-employment
assistance, job-seeking support and a post-placement support
Job seekers with disability who are interested in finding
employment can access the services of a DES provider by:
- receiving a referral from the Department of Human Services
- directly registering with a provider, who will then put them in
contact with the Department of Human Services (Centrelink) to check
eligibility for services.
Once job seekers are a registered client of a DES provider, they
will have an appointment with an employment consultant who will
work out what assistance the provider can offer, and what is
required from the job seeker to ensure long-term employment
success. An individualised Employment Pathway Plan will be created
and can include physical or personal health services, training
courses and job searching assistance, such as:
- Resume writing
- Interview techniques
- Identifying transferable skills
- Reverse marketing to potential employers.
Once a job seeker has been placed into employment, the provider
will support the new candidate and the employer, ensuring that the
transition to employment goes smoothly and provides individualised
on-the-job support and offsite mentoring as required.
What can employers do to support
someone returning to work?
There is a misconception that hiring a staff member with a
disability can result in a lack of productivity, high absenteeism
and health and safety issues, but this is not the case. It has been
found that people with disability have comparable levels of
productivity and skills to their colleagues without
Generally speaking, employees with a disability have the following
- lower levels of absenteeism
- use less sick leave
- have low turnover
- demonstrate high levels of loyalty
- have similar productivity to other employees.
Organisations who hire an employee with a disability are often
well regarded by their staff as being a good employer, and have
increased levels of customer and staff loyalty. They typically have
an increased awareness of workplace practices and conditions for
Employers who work with a DES provider to employ a job seeker with
disability are able to access federal government funding and expert
advice on workplace modifications, specialist equipment and
technology, wage subsidy assistance, disability awareness training
and work-based personal assistance.
With support from family and friends, employers and employment
service providers, it is possible for a person with acquired
disability to return to meaningful long-term employment and to
spring out of bed on a cold winter's morning, excited for what
their work day holds for them.
How to rejoin the workforece after
acquiring a disability
Practice makes perfect
To increase your confidence and to make sure you're comfortable
with tasks that could be given to you at work, practise skills that
you have previously used in employment. This could include being
physically active for as long as you would need to be at work,
completing activities that make you concentrate (such as computer
games, watching films, reading books or doing crosswords), and
taking notes when using the telephone.
Find what works for you at work
Implement processes, tools and shortcuts at work that tailor the
task to your ability. For example, your memory span might be short,
so make use of external memory aids such as note taking and
recording devices to help you retain information.
Set up support systems
To make your transition to work as smooth as possible, it's
important to establish a tight knit support network that will be
able to help you. This could include a DES employment consultant, a
return to work coordinator, a fellow colleague or family member. Be
sure to keep communication channels open between yourself, your
support network and your employer to ensure that any concerns or
unforseen workplace issues can be resolved quickly.