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As One business case for employment of people with disability

An A3 poster of the business case for employing people with disability is available from our Print on demand page

The Commission drafted a business case for APS disability employment as part of As One: APS Disability Employment Strategy. The business case is designed to go beyond ethical arguments to business benefits for employing and retaining people with disability.

The As One business case is designed to be brief and related to the broad public sector context. It is not intended to be definitive. The Commission encourages APS agencies to amend this business case or create a new business case to suite their own organisational environments.

The business case

We have categorised the benefits into four sections:


Increasingly businesses and individuals in the Australian community are looking to interact with organisations that have a reputation for diversity.1

The APS touches the lives of all Australians. The effects of the laws, policies and services we deliver as public servants are important to every Australian2—and one in five Australians has a disability restricting their life activities.3

Having a workforce that reflects the community also helps produce programs and policies that take into account the experiences and needs of people with disability.

Diversity will increase the flow of ideas and ensure a broad range of perspectives to tackle complex challenges.

Workforce planning

If we don’t think ahead, we will lose people we wanted to keep when they encounter disability.

Around 44% of ongoing APS employees are age 45 and over and are eligible for retirement in the next 10 years.4 This includes almost three in four Senior Executive Service officers.5 We also know that disability prevalence increases with age6 and that most people of working age with a disability develop their condition while at work.7 Many workers who develop a medical condition will leave an employer without fully investigating the reasonable adjustments that could have enabled them to remain at work—impacting on regrettable loss.8

We want to be in a position now to tap into a larger potential workforce in the future.

The 2010 Intergenerational Report highlighted that population ageing will place significantly more pressure on the Australian economy and that employing the working age population will become more important.9

Professional & technological

Adopting and preferring accessible technology will mainstream the productivity benefits of that technology to all staff, such as those who travel, have work commitments outside a normal office or outside normal office hours.10

Many people with disability rely on accessible technology and flexible working arrangements to deliver results. Technologies developed for people with disability transform into mainstream productivity tools (eg. optical character recognition, speech to text, text to speech etc).

Employing people with disability complements the business case for more telework.

The Australian Government is keen to see telework expand. The APS has adopted a 12% telework target for its employees by 2020.11 Telework can also help retain valuable employees, particularly those for whom travel is a barrier to employment.12 For example, IP Australia, the Government’s intellectual property rights organisation, demonstrated how teleworking enabled it to retain highly-qualified patent examiners in a highly competitive market.13 Also, traffic congestion in Australian cities is projected to cost $20 billion by 2020.14


Our leadership is tested and developed by managing a diverse workforce.

A disability-confident APS will strengthen leadership behaviours and flexible management practices. Studies indicate there are positive effects when employees can manage the demands of their work and personal lives, including job satisfaction, productivity and organisational commitment.15

Most managers already have employees with disability in their teams but may not know it. Common conditions among the workforce include back pain, arthritis or recurring migraines.16 Also most people with common mental health conditions, such as depression, develop their condition while in the workforce and continue to work.17

The APS’s and Australia’s reputation as a leader is at stake.

The APS aims to be a model employer and a leadership force. Australia is lagging behind in employment outcomes for people with disability, which affects the economic security and independence of individuals and costs the community. The cost of the Disability Support Pension alone was $14.6 billion in 2011–12.18

End notes

1 Australian Employers Network on Disability, Opportunity, Switzer Media & Publishing, 2008, p. 6. .

2 Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration, Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra, March 2010, p. viii

3 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2009, cat. no. 4430.0, ABS, Canberra, 2010, p. 3.

4 Australian Public Service Commission, State of the Service Report 2011– 12, Canberra, 2011, pp. 107.

5 Australian Public Service Commission, State of the Service Report 2010– 11, Canberra, 2011, p4.

6 Australian Public Service Commission, State of the Service Report 2011– 12, Canberra, 2011, pp. 129.

7 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Disability programmes in need of reform: Policy Brief, OECD, March 2003.

8 Beatty, J E & Joffe, R ‘An overlooked dimension of diversity: The career effects of chronic illness’, Organizational Dynamics, vol. 35, no. 2, 2006, pp. 182–195.

9 Department of the Treasury, Intergenerational Report 2010: Australia to 2050: Future challenges, Canberra, 2010.

10 Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Telework Forum: Bringing home the benefits of telework using the NBN, record of the Telework Forum, Sydney, 3 August 2011. Also see Access Economics, Impacts of Teleworking under the NBN, Report to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Canberra, 2010 ; Colmar Brunton and Deloitte Access Economics, Creating jobs through NBN-enabled telework (released November 2012). .

11 Unavailable

12 It is important to distinguish between requests for reasonable adjustments and ordinary requests for telework.

13 Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Telework Forum: Bringing home the benefits of telework using the NBN, record of the Telework Forum, Sydney, 3 August 2011, p. 9.

14 A 2007 Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) report (Estimating urban traffic and congestion cost trends for Australian cities, Working Paper No 71) estimated the cost of congestion in Australian cities to be $9.4 billion in 2006, with a projection of $20 bilion by 2020 (page 109).

15 Diversity Council Australia, Get Flexible! Mainstreaming Flexible Work in Australian Business, Diversity Council Australia, Sydney, 2012, pp. 24–25.

16 Begg S, Vos T, Barker B, Stevenson C, Stanley L & Lopez A The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003, AIHW cat. no. PHE 82, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra, 2007. The institute claims that more than three quarters of Australians are affected by at least one chronic illness: AIHW, Chronic diseases affect 15 million Australians, media release, AIHW, Canberra, 16 November 2006.

17 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development , Sick on the Job? Myths and Realities about Mental Health and Work, OECD Publishing, Paris, 2012.

18 Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Annual Report 2010–11, Canberra, 2011, p. 86.

Last reviewed: 
6 June 2018