Delivering certainty for the supported employment sector
Legislation set to be introduced to Parliament will see increased payments to people with disability under the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) Payment Scheme.
Once passed and approved by the Federal Court, it will settle a class action for a group of supported employees, their families and carers, as well as their employers.
The BSWAT was previously used to assess the competency and productivity of supported employees in Australian Disability Enterprises to determine their wages.
In December 2012, a Federal Court decision found the way the BSWAT assessed wages for two people in Australian Disability Enterprises constituted discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
The Government has since established the BSWAT Payment Scheme to provide a one-off payment to eligible intellectually impaired persons who have had their wages assess under the BSWAT. The Payment Scheme is an alternative to legal proceedings.
A class action on behalf of a limited group of intellectually disabled supported employees who had their wages assessed under the BSWAT remains before the Federal Court of Australia.
Since early October 2015, the Government and the Applicant’s legal representatives (Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, AED Legal and Counsel) have participated in formal mediation to reach a settlement which is in the best interests of supported employees.
The Applicant in the class action has now agreed to settle the class action, on behalf of himself and the other group members, on the basis that the BSWAT Payment Scheme payments are calculated at 70 per cent of alleged lost wages, rather than the current 50 per cent.
The Government will introduce legislation to this effect, which would lead to the Commonwealth providing payments directly to supported employees.
The BSWAT Payment Scheme has received more than 1,300 registrations since it opened in July 2015.
Importantly, the Government has made the BSWAT Payment Scheme available to all intellectually impaired persons who have had their wages assessed under the BSWAT between 2004 and 2014, not just the limited ‘class’ of supported employees in the class action. The Government took this approach to maximise equity between all supported employees with intellectual impairment who were paid wages under the BSWAT.
Payments are exempt from ‘income’ for social security purposes to preserve eligibility for the Disability Support Pension and to prevent debts being raised against participants in the Payment Scheme.
Australian Disability Enterprises have an ongoing role in providing employment opportunities for people with disability.
The Government will continue to work with the sector on initiatives to improve wage outcomes for supported employees, alongside a sustainable future for Australian Disability Enterprises.
Further information about the BSWAT Payment Scheme can be found at https://www.dss.gov.au/disability-and-carers/programmes-services/for-people-with-disability/bswat-payment-scheme.