Media Release by The Hon Jane Prentice MP

Businesses missing out

More than half of Australian businesses are missing out on an untapped pool of talent by overlooking candidates with disability during the hiring process.

New research released by the Australian Government shows that while the majority of Australian employers are open to hiring people with disability (77 per cent), a much lower percentage (35 per cent) demonstrate behavioural commitment to doing so.

Jane Prentice, the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, said most employers recognised the value that people with disability bring to the workforce, however many were unsure about what was involved in the disability employment process at a practical level.

“77 per cent of businesses believe it is important for their workplace to reflect the diversity in the community by including people with disability,” Mrs Prentice said.

“However, of the estimated 2.1 million Australians aged 15-64 living with disability, only 53% participate in work, compared to 83% of people without disability.

“The research tells us businesses want more help to transition from ‘willing’ to ‘hiring.’”

The most commonly perceived barriers holding employers back from hiring are their concerns about integrating people with disability into the workforce, reported by 44% of all open employers, and a lack of awareness and understanding of disability employment (37% see employing a person with disability as ‘a step into the unknown’).

Mrs Prentice said a range of supports are available to employers via the JobAccess website to support them through the process.

“Through JobAccess, employers can access practical advice and resources on all aspects of disability employment – from recruitment assistance, staff training and financial support, to workplace modifications, and tips for creating flexible work environments,” Mrs Prentice said.

“Leading disability employers are already utilising these services and reaping the benefits, but we are urging more employers to get on board.”

One organisation echoing that sentiment, joining the Australian Government’s Employ their Ability campaign, is PwC Australia.

With a workforce of more than 7,000 staff, PwC Australia is committed to workplace diversity, and has been named Australia’s most desirable employer for two years running.

Nicole Vongdara, Senior Manager, Diversity and Inclusion at PwC Australia said considering a person with a disability often leads them to the best person for the job.

“I’ve seen first hand that employees with disability bring valuable new perspectives, skills and diversity to our team,” Ms Vongdara said.   

PwC has utilised JobAccess to obtain partial funding for equipment such as iPads, and captioning services.

“For an organisation of our size, and with such varied capabilities, we’d be restricting our view or ability to attract talent if we weren’t employing people with disability,” Ms Vongdara said.

She said building a workforce which genuinely reflects and represents their customers and communities had multiple benefits and made good business sense.

“It’s win-win. That diversity strengthens our workforce, and at the same time, we’re helping to ensure more Australians with disability are given the opportunity to enjoy the personal, social and financial benefits that come with being employed and part of a team,” Ms Vongdara said.

“Right now, there are around 1 million Australians with disability looking for that opportunity, and we want to be part of a movement that helps turn those numbers around.”

For resources and assistance to hire people with disability go to  

Other key research findings:

  • Large (90%) and medium employers (83%) were more open to employing people with disability compared to small (77%) and micro businesses (76%).
  • Among this cohort, there was widespread agreement that employees with disability have a good attitude to work (76% of ‘open’ medium businesses, 69% of ‘open’ large businesses) and are loyal to the business (69% of ‘open’ medium employers, 63% of ‘open’ large employers). 
  • However, 43% of medium and 32% of large businesses open to employing people with disability were either uncertain or of the view that their business is not equipped to employ someone with a disability.
  • More than a third (35%) of employers in medium sized businesses not currently employing people with disability said they wouldn’t know how to prepare their workplace for a person with disability.
  • Research identified professional and financial services; retail, accommodation and food services; and social, health care and education services as the major industry groups most supportive and open to hiring people with disability.
  • Across all businesses, HR personnel were most open to hiring people with disability (93%) followed by admin staff (83%), middle managers (79%), people in leadership roles (76%) and business owners (73%).