Media Release by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Human Rights Commission grants Disability Enterprises interim exemption

In response to the Government’s application for both an interim and temporary exemption for the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) from elements of the Disability Discrimination Act, the Australian Human Rights Commission has today granted an interim exemption for Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) using the tool.

The interim exemption will ensure there are no issues with the payment of wages to supported employees in Australian Disability Enterprises who have already been assessed under BSWAT for four months as an interim measure, or until a decision is made on the Government’s application for a temporary 12-month exemption.

This is a welcome provisional step from the AHRC, ensuring that people with disability employed in ADEs that used the BSWAT can continue their employment with confidence they their employer is operating within the law.

In 2013 the Department of Social Services applied to the AHRC for a three-year exemption for BSWAT from the Disability Discrimination Act. Disappointingly, the Commission only granted a twelve month exemption which expired yesterday.

The full three-year exemption would have provided enough time for the development of a new wage assessment tool for ADEs to use in place of BSWAT, and would have allowed time for them to transition their workforce to the new tool.

The Government’s application for another twelve-month extension, which the AHRC is currently considering, will allow for the completion of the development of the new wage assessment tool.

Work on developing the new tool is underway, in consultation with relevant stakeholders and is being led by the Fair Work Commission.

The Government has provided $173 million to help develop a new wage tool and to assist ADEs with the transition costs to a new tool.

The AHRC has opened a process to consider the twelve-month exemption application and is inviting submissions until the 22nd May.

The Government’s priority is ensuring continuity of employment support for people with disability working in Australian Disability Enterprises.