Inclusive workplaces; from expectation to reality

Inclusive workplaces; from expectation to reality

After the recommendations surrounding inclusive employment of the Disability Royal commission, will the workplace really change for people with disabilities?

The Disability Royal Commission recently handed down its final recommendations for inclusive employment, however remained relatively silent on the assistance required for open employers on how to attract and support people with disabilities. Understandably, the recommendations focused on the regeneration of the Disability Employment Service (DES), the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the phase out of the Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE’s). 

Having spoken to many people with disabilities who are in open employment over our 10 years of research, it is apparent that the Commission’s recommendations do not go far enough to reach an important actor within the employment relationship, the employer. The people with disabilities that we have spoken to often shared the discriminatory attitudes of employers and line managers in first gaining open employment and then during their employment. Many individuals we spoke to also raised concerns about a lack of meaningful employment and felt they were often given menial tasks just to reach an employment target.

It is important to note here the types of jobs given to people with disabilities. While employment itself is good, meaningful work needs to be sought after. For example, one person with a disability stated to us – ‘I want to do something I like, I don’t want to empty a dishwasher for the rest of my life’.

Having also spoken to line managers and HR managers, it was stressed that there is little advice and support from government organisations on how to effectively recruit and include people with disabilities in the workplace. Issues raised by line and HR managers included ineffective DES advice in recruiting people with disabilities, along with little disability inclusion training for line managers and little ongoing workplace support for employees with disabilities. Employers noted that DES consultants often ‘washed their hands’ of people with disabilities once they had obtained a job.

While we commend the Commission for advocating for the inclusion of people with disabilities within open employment, it is important to note that without adequate guidance and support for employers, people with disabilities will still encounter higher levels of unemployment and discrimination in gaining and maintaining employment. In fact, with the recommended phase out of ADE’s, Australia may even see an increase in unemployment and underemployment for people with disabilities.

08 November 2023



  • Dr Hannah Meacham
  • Associate Professor Jillian Cavanagh
  • Professor Timothy Bartram
08 November 2023


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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.