In the final days of the former Labor government, a plea for an exemption to anti-discrimination laws was sought to let the federal government continue to use a wage assessment tool which discriminates against some people with an intellectual disability.
The new federal government has continued to seek the exemption from sections 15, 24 and 29 of the Disability Discrimination Act.
The exemption would allow the continued discrimination against some workers with an intellectual disability by forcing them to use a process for wage assessment which they might not be able to understand, but aims to stop registered Australian Disability Enterprises from running afoul of laws and losing their certifications or funding.
A Federal Court ruling in May found that government sanctioned disability enterprises broke section 15 by seeking to force two workers to be assessed under the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool. The applicants said they were unable to use the tool because of their disabilities.
An application for exemption to the Australian Human Rights Commission shows the government department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs sought the three year exemption while “alternative wage setting arrangements are being considered, devised and/or established and implemented”.
It states: “Around 20,000 people with disability are employed in ADEs across Australia, with roughly half of these individuals receiving wages assessed using the BSWAT.”
FHCSIA told the Commission it had built up a taskforce to “work through the implications of the judgement and take any appropriate action”.
“There is a real risk that ADEs who continue to use BSWAT will be assessed as having not met legislated quality assurance requirement,” risking loss of funding and certification, the application states.
Peak body Catholic Services Victoria represents some disability enterprises and advocates for workers with a disability.
CSV executive director Denis Fitzgerald said Australia was falling behind other OECD countries in employing people with disability.
“If anything the Commonwealth government should be committing to at least reaching the standards set in previous years,” he said.