Making workplace adjustments
Not all graduates with disability will need workplace adjustments. Where a person does need workplace adjustments, these are most likely to be relatively straight forward and inexpensive to make. One of the single factors most likely to make the biggest difference to career outcomes for graduates with disability and their contribution to the organisation is the graduate employer making useful workplace adjustments.
Negotiating workplace adjustments
Negotiating workplace adjustments can be a great chance for the worker and employer to come to concrete agreements about working together to get the job done and building an effective and strong working relationship. It's about sorting out the practical issues plus getting good communication going. The approach you take to negotiations can make a huge difference.
For advice to employers on how to talk about disability go to the 'What is disability' section and check out the 'Communication tips'.
For a 10 step plan for employers and employees on successfully negotiating workplace adjustments go to our Information Sheet on 'How to Negotiate Workplace Adjustments' (PDF, 140.72 KB).
Making workplace adjustments happen
Tips for employers about putting workplace adjustments in place
Here are some tips on how to move from negotiating workplace adjustments to making them happen:
- Get to know your organisation's workplace adjustment policy.
- Check if your organisation has anyone specifically allocated or specialising in coordinating workplace adjustments, try human resources; occupational health and safety; and/or equity units.
- Talk to information technology specialists within your organisation if assistive software and/or hardware is needed.
- Stick to the timeframes in the agreed plan.
- Keep up communication with the employee with disability about progress; any reasons for delays; and check that any adjustments put in place are working ok.
- Remember that putting workplace adjustments in place almost always involves 'trial and error' to make it work for the individual and specific workplace. If an adjustment doesn't work well when you implement it, try it again a bit differently or consider alternatives. Don't give up or let it become a reason for grievance.
- For further information on the Employment Assistance Fund, contact JobAccess to find out if your organisation is entitled to assistance with the cost and coordination of workplace adjustments. This is an excellent program and most workplaces are covered.
Workplace adjustments refer to any accommodations, modifications or provisions made in the workplace to allow a person with disability to work effectively. Other terms used to describe workplace adjustments include reasonable adjustments, workplace modifications, reasonable accommodations, or some other variation. These could be administrative, environmental or procedural adjustments, and they could be temporary or long-term.
In graduate employment this also includes adjustments to the process of graduate recruitment, placement programs and development programs.
Employers are legally obliged to make any reasonable workplace adjustments that are needed to allow the person with disability to perform their duties, participate in the workplace and/or to access equal work conditions and professional development opportunities (for more detail go to 'Legal rights and obligations'). Employers who fail to make reasonable workplace adjustments could be exposed to liability for unlawful discrimination as well as missing an opportunity for using the talents of the full pool of graduates. If declining to make a reasonable adjustment, an employer is legally obliged to demonstrate 'unjustifiable hardship' (for more information go to 'Legal rights and obligations').
There is government assistance available to graduate employers to help with costs associated with equipment, modifications and/or interpreter services, called the Employers Assistance Fund. Contact JobAccess for more information.
More information regarding workplace adjustments
For further information, please refer to the following websites:
- Australian Network on Disability (AND) - Business Benefits of Hiring People with a Disability
- JobAccess - Workplace Adjustment.
The type of workplace adjustment needed by any person with disability is a highly individual matter and can only be effectively determined by speaking with the graduate directly and investigating possible options. No graduate would need all of these adjustments and some will need none at all.
- Graduate selection processes
- Allowing a later or earlier interview appointment time to help the person deal with travelling during 'peak hour'
- Providing a 'quiet room' before the interview to help the graduate have reading and/or 'chill-out' time; and/or
- Allowing the application to be submitted electronically.
- Graduate placement and/or development programs
- Allocating a mentor to the graduate with disability, especially during the start and peak periods of the program
- Allowing extra time for reading, new tasks and/or orientation programs and\or
- Extending the usual period of the program to allow the person to work part-time and complete the program over a longer period.
- Job redesign
- Divide larger projects into smaller tasks, especially when the project is new and/or
- Exchanging some minor duties with co-workers.
- Changes to work practices or methods
- Developing regular workplace routines for the graduate done in similar ways, times and/or places as often as possible
- Using electronic 'to do' lists to record and track the tasks that need to be regularly completed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and/or
- Providing plain written instructions about new job processes.
- Flexible work arrangements
- More frequent or differently sequenced breaks in work routine to allow for rest, quiet time, taking medications, eating snacks, etc and/or
- Working from home for part of the time for specific tasks.
- Alterations to work premises or work areas
- Adjustable height desk or workbench
- Working at an alternative site, for example closer to home or quieter
- Increasing lighting at workstation and other work areas, such as laboratory, workshop or interview room
- Providing clear markings and colour contrasts on steps or pathways
- Providing a parking space close to the place of employment for an employee who uses a wheelchair and/or
- Building modifications to allow access to a building or bathroom facilities.
- Information and communication in alternative formats
- Giving new instructions in written and spoken form where possible
- Providing important documents in accessible electronic versions prior to meetings
- Accessing interpreters such as Auslan interpreters for employees who are deaf or have a hearing impairment and/or
- Allowing extra reading time where large amounts of reading is required.
- Modified equipment, specialised equipment, furniture or technological aides
- Lifting equipment for an employee who cannot lift heavy objects safely
- Arranging telephone typewriter (TTY) phone access for an employee who is deaf, has a hearing or speech impairment
- Voice-activated tape recorder for verbal instructions
- Screen reading software for employees with vision impairments and/or
- Disability specific equipment such as Braille equipment.
Also check out further examples of possible workplace adjustments for people with specific types of disabilities in the 'What is disability' section.
References: Diversity@Work website www.diversityatwork.com.au as cited on 31 October 2008; and Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations' Job Access website www.jobaccess.gov.au as cited on 4 June 2010.