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Thursday, 16 June 2011
Page: 3212

Health and Ageing: Staffing

(Question No. 620)

Senator Siewert asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, upon notice, on 27 April 2011:

(1) What is the total number of staff currently employed?

(2) What is the total number of staff with disability currently employed?

(3) What policies or programs are in place to encourage the recruitment of people with disability?

(4) What retention strategies are in place for people with disability?

(5) What career pathways or plans are on offer for people with disability; if none, why?

(6) Are there any specific targets for recruitment and retention; if not, why not?

(7) What policies, programs or services are there to support staff with a disability?

(8) Can details be provided of any policies, programs, services or plans currently under development within the department and its agencies concerning the employment of people with disability?

Senator Ludwig: The Minister for Health and Ageing has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) As at 31 March 2011, the total department headcount was 5355. This includes ongoing, non-ongoing and casual staff.

(2) As at 31 March 2011, 226 departmental staff self-identified.

(3) The department's recruitment guidelines outline processes for Panels where applicants are able to request reasonable adjustments to be made available at time of interview.

The department liaises with Disability Employment Service Providers (DESPs) to recruit people with disability in ongoing and non-ongoing positions.

The department is a gold member of the Australian Network on Disability and participates in the Australian Network on Disability's Stepping Into program.

The department is also participating in the Paralympic Workplace Diversity Program run by 360 HR in collaboration with the Australian Paralympic Committee.

The department has a current Disability Workforce Action Plan which it has been implementing and is also revising for 2011-2013.

The department encourages the procurement of goods and services under the revised Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines. This demonstrates a commitment to supporting the recruitment and retention of people with disability in the private sector.

(4) Engagement of people with disability who are unable to compete in a merit-based selection process as outlined in the Australian Public Service Commissioner's directions (APSC Circular 2010/2). The department is establishing new HR delegations and is piloting a process to implement the Circular.

The appointment of a Disability Champion at the SESB2 level to advocate for, support and encourage retention of Staff with disability.

Undertaking and hosting disability confidence training for staff in other Agencies and DoHA.

The Reasonable Adjustment policy is regularly updated to reflect changes in legislation and organisational structure and feedback from staff with disability.

A Staff with Disability Network has been established and is developing a formal awards process to recognise the achievements of staff with disability, their managers and/or colleagues, it is also supporting its members and building awareness to ensure retention.

The department implements a Disability Workforce Action Plan.

The department has specific Staff with Disability representatives on the People Committee and the National Staff Participation Forum.

(5) Staff with disability are offered additional Studybank provisions for completion of work-related study.

Staff with disability are encouraged to apply for corporate roles such as Workplace Harassment Contact Officers, First Aid Officers, Fire Wardens, Health and Safety Representatives.

The department has specifically engaged staff with cognitive disability to give them employment and career opportunity within the Corporate Support function.

The department has staff with disability across its classifications and currently demonstrates that staff can progress despite their disability.

(6) The department consults the Australian Network on Disability regarding recruitment and retention strategies. The Australian Network on Disability does not subscribe to employment targets.

The APSC has not set any targets for Agencies to meet however DoHA has been identified in the State of the Service as having good representation of staff with disability.

(7) An SESB2 officer has been appointed as the senior level advocate (Disability Champion) for staff with disability. As Disability Champion, she listens to staff and advocates for their needs to the department's Executive and managers. She also educates the department's staff through regular communication messaging and information channels. The department's Disability Champion is a board member on the Australian Network on Disability.

The Staff with Disability Network was established in 2010. The Network is centrally funded and is currently operating with more than 100 members. The Network convenes an annual forum for members and a Network Executive Committee has been established to guide network activities. The Network objectives are to:

provide advice to the department on procedures and policies that directly or reasonably indirectly impact on the workplace and workforce for staff with disability;

support People Branch to provide education and awareness raising activities, such as information sessions and written materials, to the broader department community;

provide support to and advocacy for the department's staff with disability, including mentoring staff with disability and advising on reasonable adjustments; and

engage with the departmental Executive and senior leaders.

Staff are actively encouraged to update their disability status on SAP ESS. Staff who have identified with disability on SAP receive regular communication from the Disability Champion.

The Disability Workforce intranet page is regularly updated and promoted to staff.

The department offers regular information sessions to all staff on understanding the needs of people with disability; dispelling myths surrounding disability; and raising staff awareness of the etiquette of offering assistance to people with disability. Sessions also include managing and working with staff with disability.

A disability representative has been appointed to the National Staff Participative Forum (NSPF), the NSPF Bullying and Harassment Working Group and the People Committee. Proxy's have also been identified.

With the assistance of the Staff with Disability Network, International Day of People with Disability was celebrated nationally in December 2010.

The Reasonable Adjustment policy was reviewed and launched. The reviewed Policy included input from staff with disability, the Australian Network on Disability and was provided to each Business Management Unit for implementation.

Use of and purchase of specific equipment to support staff including, for instance, use of hearing loops for staff briefings, interpreters etc.

(8) The department and its Portfolio agencies have a number of policies, programs and services that will continue and ongoing in 2011 such as:

implementation and updating of workplace diversity plans with detailed actions;

delivery of flexible working arrangements that are beneficial to staff including staff with disability. This includes home based work, part-time working arrangements, flexible working hours and purchased leave;

maintenance of its gold membership with the Australian Network on Disability;

centralised funding for reasonable adjustment to the workplace, including the provision of assistive technology;

consideration of reasonable adjustment needs during all recruitment and selection phases. For example, from March 2009, the department has utilised the National Relay Service for potential applicants who are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment;

provision of reasonable adjustments to facilitate attendance at internal training courses; and

consideration and implementation of disability needs in work design, workplace restructures and office refurbishments (for example the 2009-2010 Central Office Accommodation Project).

The department is currently developing a formal workplace policy to support work areas to hire Auslan Interpreters for a range of corporate events as appropriate.

The department is reviewing outsourced activities to identify if insourcing using staff with disability (ie cognitive disability) is an option.

The department ensures staff with disability, as one of a number of diversity groups, is specifically identified in the Staff Survey. A specific report and analysis of their results is provided annually and used to understand areas for attention and improvement.