What is Disability Discrimination in the workplace?
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 provides protection for people against discrimination based on disability.
If a person with a disability can carry out the essential activities or "inherent requirements" of a job, they should have an equal opportunity to be employed along with others.
For instance, consider someone in a wheelchair due to paralysis in their legs applying for a telephone operator role. An essential activity or "inherent requirement" for a telephonist's job is the ability to answer and talk on the telephone. Being in a wheelchair in such a circumstance does not prevent a disabled person from carrying out the essential activity of the telephonist's role.
Under the Act, employers have a legal obligation to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace to enable those with disabilities to work. In the above example of a person in a wheelchair, it would be expected the employer make a reasonable effort to implement workplace changes so that the disabled person can best perform the job, such as installing ramps if there are only stairs in the workspace.
A failure to make reasonable adjustments may amount to discrimination.
Employers are not required to make workplace changes if it would cause major difficulties or incur unreasonable costs, referred to as ‘unjustifiable hardship’.
The Australian Government offers financial and other assistance to employers for workplace modifications through Job Access.
If you experience discrimination in an employment context, you should seek appropriate legal advice regarding your rights.
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