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How to rejoin the workforce after acquiring a disability - Fact Sheet

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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 service.

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 (Centrelink), or
  • 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 disability.

Generally speaking, employees with a disability have the following qualities:

  • 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 all employees.

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.


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