Employment participation needs and challenges

88%

of employed working-age people with disability do not require additional support from their employer to work.

82%

of employed working-age people with disability do not need time off from work because of their disability.

11%

of employed working-age people with disability experienced disability discrimination in the last year.

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Introduction

Some working-age (aged 15–64) people with disability, especially those with employment restrictions, can find engaging in the labour force challenging.

Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers

Data in this section are sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC). The SDAC is the most detailed and comprehensive source of disability prevalence in Australia.

The SDAC considers that a person has disability if they have at least 1 of a list of limitations, restrictions or impairments, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least 6 months and restricts everyday activities.

The limitations are grouped into 10 activities associated with daily living—self-care, mobility, communication, cognitive or emotional tasks, health care, reading or writing tasks, transport, household chores, property maintenance, and meal preparation. The SDAC also identifies 2 other life areas in which people may experience restriction or difficulty as a result of disability—schooling and employment.

The severity of disability is defined by if a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with 3 core activities—self-care, mobility, and communication—and is grouped for mild, moderate, severe, and profound limitation. People who ‘always’ or ‘sometimes’ need help with 1 or more core activities are referred to in this section as ‘people with severe or profound disability’.


Workplace arrangements

Some people with disability need specific arrangements to work, such as working part-time, specific leave arrangements or other supports such as being allocated different duties. The majority do not. Most employed (88% or 684,000) and unemployed (82% or 92,400) working-age people with disability do not require specific arrangements from their employer to work.

Employed people

Most (88% or 684,000) employed working-age people with disability do not require specific arrangements from their employer to work. Of those who do:

  • 50% (or 47,700) need special equipment or modified buildings/fittings, or to be provided special/free transport or parking
  • 25% (or 23,700) need a special support person to assist or train them on the job (applies to salary or wage earners only) or to be provided help from someone at work, or to be provided training/retraining
  • 26% (or 25,000) need to be allocated different duties (Table CHALLENGES.1).
Table CHALLENGES.1: Specific arrangements needed by employed working-age people with disability(a) who need specific arrangements(b) from employers to work, 2018 (%)

Specific employer arrangements needed

Employed people with disability

Special support person, help from someone at work or training(c)

25.1

Provided equipment, transport/parking, modified buildings/fittings(d)

50.4

Allocated different duties

26.4

Other

21.9

Total

100.0

(a) Aged 15–64 with disability living in households who are employed wage or salary earners.

(b) Because of their disability.

(c) Includes special support person to assist or train on the job, provided help from someone at work and provided training/retraining.

(d) Includes provided special equipment, modified buildings/fittings, provided special/free transport or parking.

Note: More than 1 arrangement may be reported.

Source: ABS 2019; see also Table CHALL2.

Most (82% or 644,000) employed (salary or wage earning) working-age people with disability do not need at least 1 day per week off work because of their disability. Of those who use specific leave arrangements at least 1 day per week, the most common arrangement is to work:

  • casual or part-time hours (53% or 72,500)
  • flexible hours (25% or 34,100) (Table CHALLENGES.2).

Employed working-age people with severe or profound disability are more likely (33% or 31,600) to use specific leave arrangements at least 1 day per week because of their disability than those with other disability (15% or 104,000) (ABS 2019).

Table CHALLENGES.2: Leave arrangements used by employed working-age people with disability(a) who need specific leave arrangements from employers(b) to work, 2018 (%)

Leave arrangements used

Employed people with disability

Sick leave

14.4

Flexible hours

25.0

Leave without pay

14.0

Casual/part-time hours

53.2

Other arrangements(c)

20.2

Total

100.0

(a) Aged 15–64 with disability living in households who are employed wage or salary earners.

(b) At least 1 day per week because of their disability.

(c) Includes recreation/annual leave, WorkCover/worker's compensation, and other.

Note: More than 1 arrangement may be reported.

Source: ABS 2019; see also Table CHALL4.


Difficulty finding work

Most (93% or 105,000) working-age people with disability who are unemployed report at least 1 difficulty finding work, compared with 83% (or 453,000) without disability. Own ill health or disability is the most common reason for those with disability (45% or 47,000), followed by:

  • lacked necessary skills or education (34% or 35,200)
  • considered too old by employers (27% or 28,700)
  • too many applicants for available jobs (27% or 28,300)
  • insufficient work experience (25% or 25,900) (Table CHALLENGES.3).
Table CHALLENGES.3: Difficulties finding employment for unemployed working-age people(a), by disability status, 2018 (%)

Difficulties finding employment

With disability

Without disability

Own ill health or disability

44.9

3.3

Lacked necessary skills or education

33.7

23.9

Considered too old by employers

27.4

11.4

Too many applicants for available jobs

27.1

37.9

Insufficient work experience

24.8

26.4

No vacancies at all

14.0

18.9

No feedback from employers

9.5

9.8

Child-care availability or other family responsibilities

8.1

9.6

Other(b)

31.5

32.4

(a) Aged 15–64 with disability living in households who have difficulties in finding employment.

(b) Includes too far to travel/transport problems, unsuitable hours, considered too young by employers, difficulties because of ethnic background or language, and other difficulties.

Note: More than 1 difficulty may be reported.

Source: ABS 2019; see also Table CHALL6.


Discrimination

Employed working-age people with disability (11% or 89,100) are less likely than those who are unemployed (24% or 23,300) to have experienced disability discrimination in the last year (ABS 2019).

For more than 2 in 5 (45% or 40,300) employed working-age people with disability, the source of that discrimination was an employer. For about 2 in 5 (42% or 37,400), it was a work colleague (Table CHALLENGES.4).

For more information on discrimination, see Disability discrimination.

Table CHALLENGES.4: Source of discrimination for working-age people with disability(a) who experienced discrimination(b), by employment status, 2018 (%)

Source of discrimination

Employed

All in the labour force(c)

Employer

45.2

40.4

Colleague

42.0

34.5

Other source(d)

57.0

60.3

(a) Aged 15–64 with disability living in households who had a personal interview.

(b) Because of their disability in the last 12 months.

(c) Includes employed and unemployed people.

(d) Includes family or friends, teacher or lecturer, health staff (GP, nurse, hospital staff), bus drivers/rail staff/taxi drivers, restaurant/hospitality staff, sales assistants, strangers in the street, and other.

Note: More than 1 source may be reported.

Source: ABS 2019; see also Table CHALL8.

Unemployed working-age people with disability (52% or 49,700) are more likely than those who are employed (35% or 299,000) to have avoided situations because of their disability in the last year. Of those who avoided situations, unemployed people (28% or 13,800) are less likely than employed people (39% or 116,000) to have avoided work (Table CHALLENGES.5).

Table CHALLENGES.5: Type of situation avoided for working-age people with disability(a) who avoided situations(b), by employment status, 2018 (%)

Type of situation avoided

Employed

Unemployed

Work

38.9

27.8

Situation(s) other than work(c)

91.8

92.2

(a) Aged 15–64 with disability living in households who had a personal interview and are in the labour force.

(b) In the last 12 months because of their disability.

(c) Includes visiting family or friends, school, university or educational facility, medical facilities (GP, dentist, hospital), shops, banks etc., restaurants, cafés or bars, public transport, public park or recreation venue, other social situations, other public places, and other.

Note: More than 1 situation may be reported.

Source: ABS 2019; see also Table CHALL10.


Employment restrictions

People with disability who have specific restrictions related to employment can face additional challenges finding or keeping employment.

Not all people with disability have employment restrictions and a person’s level of restriction may differ from their level of limitation in other life areas. For example, of working-age people with severe or profound disability:

  • almost two-thirds (64% or 323,000) have severe or profound employment restriction
  • over 1 in 4 (27% or 135,000) have mild or moderate employment restriction
  • 1 in 10 (10% or 49,200) have no employment restriction (ABS 2019).

What are employment restrictions?

In the SDAC, an employment restriction means a person meets 1 or more of the following:

  • are permanently unable to work
  • are restricted in the type of work they can or could do
  • need or would need at least 1 day a week off work on average
  • are restricted in the number of hours they can or could work
  • require or would require an employer to provide special equipment, modify the work environment or make special arrangements
  • require assistance from a disability job placement program or agency
  • need or would need to be given ongoing assistance or supervision
  • would find it difficult to change jobs or get a better job.

A person's overall level of employment restriction is determined by their highest level of limitation. Restriction levels are:

Profound—the person's condition permanently prevents them from working.

Severe—the person:

  • requires personal support
  • requires ongoing supervision or assistance
  • requires a special disability support person
  • receives assistance from a disability job placement program or agency.

Moderate—the person:

  • is restricted in the type of job and/or the numbers of hours they can work
  • has difficulty in changing jobs.

Mild—the person requires:

  • help from someone at work
  • special equipment
  • modifications to buildings or fittings
  • special arrangements for transport or parking
  • training
  • to be allocated different duties.

Many (68% or 1.4 million) working-age people with disability have 1 or more employment restrictions. Of those, the most common types are:

  • restricted in type of job (51% or 710,000)
  • difficulty changing jobs or getting a preferred job (42% or 587,000)
  • permanently unable to work because of condition(s) (37% or 515,000)
  • restricted in number of hours (35% or 482,000)
  • need for time off work (23% or 327,000) (ABS 2019).

The types of restrictions reported by working-age people with disability differ by labour force status (Figure CHALLENGES.1).

 

Bar chart showing 9 categories of employment restrictions for working-age people with disability who have at least 1 restriction. The reader can select to display the chart by 4 categories of labour force status, including not in labour force, unemployed, employed and all statuses. The chart shows employed people with disability are less likely (7.4%) to require ongoing supervision or assistance than those who are unemployed (21%).

Almost one-third (32% or 664,000) of working-age people with disability have no employment restriction. Almost 3 in 10 (28% or 187,000) of this group are not in the labour force (Table CHALLENGES.6).

Table CHALLENGES.6: Severity of employment restriction for working-age people with disability(a), by labour force status, 2018 (%)

Labour force status

Severe or profound employment restriction

Mild or moderate employment restriction

No employment restriction

All people

Employed

6.7

68.0

67.6

47.8

Unemployed

5.1

7.3

4.2

5.5

Not in the labour force

88.5

24.9

28.1

46.6

Total

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

All in the labour force (row %)

32.5

35.2

32.3

100.0

(a) Aged 15–64 living in households.

Source: ABS 2019; see also Table CHALL13.

Over one-third (35% or 725,000) of working-age people with disability have mild or moderate employment restriction (Table CHALLENGES.6). This group is the most likely to be employed (68%, compared with 68% with no employment restriction and 6.7% with severe or profound restriction).

One-third (32% or 668,000) of working-age people with disability have severe or profound employment restriction. This group is the most likely to not be in the labour force (89%, compared with 28% with no employment restriction and 25% with mild or moderate restriction) (Table CHALLENGES.6).