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Affirmative measure for recruiting people with disability: A guide for agencies


The Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016 (the Directions) commenced on 1 December 2016 and replaced the 2013 Directions in their entirety.

Section 27 of the Directions provides a new affirmative measure which gives agencies the flexibility to identify a vacancy as open only to persons who have a disability, or a particular type of disability.

The affirmative measure is designed to address the under-representation of people with disability in the Australian Public Service (APS).

Consistent with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and our human rights obligations, including those set out in international conventions1, the aims of the disability employment affirmative measure are to:

  1. promote the right to equality and non-discrimination in employment for people with disability
  2. acknowledge that all individuals have the right to employment, while recognising it is sometimes necessary to provide some groups in the community with additional support in order for them to enjoy their right to employment on an equal basis with others
  3. increase the number of people with disability employed in the APS
  4. assist agencies to meet the objectives of the APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016-19.

The affirmative measure incorporates the provisions of clauses 16 and 17 of the former Directions—vacancies for people with intellectual disability and engaging people with disability likely to be unable to compete on merit.

The RecruitAbility scheme continues to be available and is provided in section 28 of the Directions. See RecruitAbility scheme: A guide for agencies.

This guide to the new affirmative measure should be read in conjunction with other relevant advice provided by the Australian Public Service Commission, including:

The guide will be reviewed in late 2017.

Part one—Scope of affirmative measure

The disability employment affirmative measure set out in section 27 of the Directions can be applied to any ongoing, non-ongoing or casual APS vacancy, regardless of the duties, including those at Senior Executive Service level. It is not restricted to jobs with a disability-related function. It may be applied to individual vacancies or bulk rounds, such as graduate recruitment rounds.

There are three different circumstances where the affirmative measure may be applied:

  • the vacancy is ongoing or non-ongoing for more than 18 months2 and a full merit-based selection process is needed including notification of the vacancy in the Public Service Gazette
  • the vacancy is short-term—18 months or less—or for irregular or intermittent duties and gazettal of the vacancy is not required
  • the agency is engaging a Disability Employment Services (DES) participant who has been assessed as being likely to be unable to compete successfully on merit in a competitive selection process.

Recruitment processes for the first two circumstances are described in this guide. For information about engaging a DES participant directly through a DES provider see Recruiting a person with disability using affirmative measures. That webpage will be updated and incorporated into this guide shortly.

Part two—Eligibility of applicants

Subsection 27(2) of the Directions provides that the agency head—or delegate—must ensure that for a vacancy under this affirmative measure, only persons with a disability or a particular type of disability are eligible.

Definition of disability

The definition of disability for the purposes of the affirmative measure is outlined here.

Types of disability

Where a vacancy is restricted to a person with a particular type of disability, this would generally be because there is a connection between the skills a person with a particular type of disability may have and the requirements of the job—e.g. a person with vision impairment is recruited to test software accessibility. However, where the requirements of the job allow, it may also be appropriate in some circumstances to restrict vacancies to a particular group of people with disability that experience disproportionate levels of employment disadvantage, e.g. people with intellectual disability.

For information on restricting vacancies to persons with intellectual disability see Recruiting a person with disability using affirmative measures. The information on that webpage will be updated and incorporated into this guide shortly.

Evidence of disability

As provided in subsection 27(2) of the Directions, agencies will need to ensure that applicants are persons with disability. Evidence of disability is not to include information about the type of disability, unless the vacancy itself has been restricted to persons with a particular type of disability.

Rather than ask applicants to submit evidence with their application, it would be acceptable to require only shortlisted applicants to provide evidence. This means that evidence is not required to be provided unnecessarily. It will also allow agencies to form merit lists for subsequent vacancies, and allow merit lists to be shared between agencies. Note that strict privacy provisions apply to sharing merit lists.

Suitable evidence of a disability would be a certificate or letter from a registered medical practitioner.

The following documents would also be acceptable:

  • letter from a Disability Employment Service or jobactive provider
  • letter from a secondary or tertiary institution disability services unit in relation to a recent student.

If the above documents are not available, agencies may consider accepting a statutory declaration from the applicant.

Part three—Ongoing vacancies and long term non-ongoing vacancies

Ongoing and non-ongoing vacancies for more than 18 months are required to be notified in the Public Service Gazette and a merit-based selection process undertaken.

Agencies will need to make sure that their online application and assessment processes are fully accessible, and offer potential applicants alternative formats if required.

Selection panel members should be trained in disability awareness. Consideration should be given to having a representative from the agency diversity team and/or a person with disability on the panel. Where vacancies are restricted to applicants with particular types of disability, specialist training for panel members may be needed.

Step 1

Revise or develop the job description. Ensure it reflects only the inherent (essential) requirements of the job. Identify the key skills required to do the job.

Example of how to improve job descriptions based on inherent requirements of the job and writing them in a way which is inclusive:
  • Must have a driver's licence
  • Ability to scribe shorthand
  • Must have knowledge of the department's quality control strategies
  • Must have access to reliable transport
  • Ability to record meeting minutes
  • Have an understanding of quality assurance frameworks

Step 2

Evaluate the role using the APS or SES work level standards to confirm classification level.

Step 3

Notify the vacancy in the Public Service Gazette (APSjobs)and on other websites as desired. Clearly identify the  vacancy as being notified under the affirmative measure – disability employment  in the job title and under the ‘eligibility’ heading. When lodging the vacancy on APSjobs, tick the 'Affirmative measure vacancy - disability employment' box. Provide contact details for applicants who require alternative application formats.

The following text will appear in the vacancy notification:

Affirmative measure vacancy - disability employment

The filling of this vacancy is intended to constitute an affirmative measure under Section 27 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016. This vacancy is open only to people with disability.

Note: You should carefully consider whether to apply the RecruitAbility scheme when using the new affirmative measure, as this could result in a large field of candidates meeting the minimum requirements to progress to the next stage of assessment.

Step 4

Optional—send a copy of the vacancy notification to:

  • National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (JobAccess) who can also distribute to DES providers
  • jobactive providers
  • other recruitment companies that specialise in placing employees with disability.

See contact details at Attachment A.

Step 5

Ensure application form asks applicant if they are a person with disability and whether they need any adjustments to the recruitment process.

Step 6

Shortlist applicants for further assessment. Contact shortlisted applicants to explain selection process, including evidence requirements, and arrange reasonable adjustments if needed. See Supporting employee performance through workplace adjustments for examples of reasonable adjustments in the recruitment process.

Step 7

Conduct assessment process and obtain references.

Step 8

Make selection decision.

Step 9

Gazettal of outcomes is no longer required for engagement decisions. If the outcome is a promotion, withhold name of the successful applicant in Gazette. See Public Service Gazette requirements.

Step 10

Contact all applicants and provide feedback. This is an important step in helping applicants achieve success in future applications.

Part four—Short term vacancies or irregular or intermittent duties

For non-ongoing vacancies for a specified term or task for a period of up to 18 months, or for irregular or intermittent duties, section 22 of the Directions specifies requirements for notifying members of the community about the vacancy. Agency heads—or delegates—are to ensure, as far as practicable, that the vacancy is brought to the notice of the community in a way that gives eligible members of the community a reasonable opportunity to apply for it.

Agencies can meet this 'reasonable opportunity to apply' requirement by advertising the vacancy or establishing non-ongoing employment registers. There is no requirement to notify the vacancy in the Public Service Gazette, although agencies may choose to do so.

It is recommended that agencies using non-ongoing employment registers contact all applicants on the register to advise them of the new affirmative measure, ask if they wish to identify as a person with disability and explain the evidence requirements. This may also be done when the register is being renewed. Agencies with existing notifications of registers on APSjobs and their own websites should include information about the new measure.

Agencies will need to make sure that their online application and assessment processes are fully accessible, and offer potential applicants alternative formats if required.

Step 1

As a vacancy arises that is to be filled under the disability employment affirmative measure, revise or develop the job description (see above).

Step 2

Shortlist applicants for further assessment. Contact shortlisted applicants to explain the selection process and arrange reasonable adjustments if needed. See Workplace adjustments to support employee performance for examples of reasonable adjustments in the recruitment process.

Step 3

Conduct the assessment process and obtain references.

Step 4

Make selection decision. As a minimum requirement, the agency head must be satisfied that the person to be engaged has the work-related qualities genuinely required to perform the relevant duties.

Step 5

Contact all shortlisted applicants and provide feedback. This is an important step in helping applicants achieve success in future applications.

Part five—Privacy

There is ordinarily no obligation for an employee to share information about disability with an employer unless it affects an employee's ability to do the tasks that must be carried out to get the job done. For the purpose of this affirmative measure, applicants will be required to disclose that they have a disability in order to demonstrate that they meet the eligibility requirements.

Health information about an employee, including information about a disability, is 'sensitive information' for the purposes of the Privacy Act 1988. This sensitive information has a higher level of protection and the person's consent is required for the information to be collected.

The Australian Privacy Principles provide that an agency can only use or disclose sensitive information for the purpose for which it was collected. Privacy legislation requires managers and HR practitioners to obtain consent from an individual to share information about their disability with other people in the agency.

Regulation 9.2 of the Public Service Regulations 1999 allows agency heads to use or disclose personal information in circumstances where the use or disclosure is necessary to the performance or exercise of employer powers. For more information see Use and disclosure of employee information.

Further information

Agencies may contact the Diversity and Inclusion Policy Team at the Australian Public Service Commission by email to diversity [at] apsc.gov.au.

Attachment A: Disability employment services

Disability Employment Services providers

Disability Employment Services (DES) providers connect people with disability to prospective employers. DES providers source eligible candidates for jobs and offer a range of services to employers. They can offer advice on marketing job vacancies, shortlisting candidates and interviewing people with disability. They can provide guidance on disability awareness in the workplace, available financial support, flexible workplace arrangements and disability legislation.

To find a DES provider near you:

See also Using Disability Employment Services providers.

National Disability Recruitment Coordinator

The National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC) is funded by the Australian Government as a program of JobAccess. The NDRC is designed to help larger employers access the skills and talents of people with disability.

The NDRC can work with agencies to develop workplace policies and practices that accommodate people with disability. The NDRC conducts workplace training and employer seminars on disability awareness and provides a job vacancy service.

Job vacancy service

The NDRC can help you design jobs and write clear position descriptions focusing on the fundamental requirements of the job.
At no charge, the NDRC can broadcast your vacancies to a network of DES providers. These providers can put forward candidates with the qualifications, skills and experiences to best match the jobs being offered.

The NDRC also offers advice on how to get DES providers involved in the shortlisting and interviewing process as well as on-the-job support for your new staff members.

Notifying JobAccess (NDRC) for vacancy distribution service to DES providers via the link: http://www.workfocus.com/employer-vacancy.aspx

To contact the NDRC:

  • phone a JobAccess Adviser on 1800 464 800 and they will connect you
  • email jobs.ndrc [at] workfocus.com


jobactive connects job seekers with employers and is delivered by a network of jobactive providers. Employers can use a local jobactive provider for tailored recruitment services, at no cost. jobactive providers work closely with employers to understand their recruitment needs.

To find your local provider visit the jobactive website.

1 Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 2(2) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities .

2 The 2016 Directions extend this period from 12 months to 18 months.

Last reviewed: 
9 December 2020