Reasonable Adjustment Policy

Table of contents

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1. Principles 

The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) is committed to ensuring an accessible and inclusive work environment to enable people with disability to participate fully in all aspects of employment. In keeping with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act (1992), FaHCSIA seeks to apply the principle of reasonable adjustment to remove barriers to participation in work by people with disability. Reasonable adjustments will be made to enable appropriately skilled people with disabilities to perform the inherent requirements of their positions.

This policy applies to, but is not limited to, the following areas:
  • Recruitment, selection, and appointment
  • Induction and orientation
  • Participation in projects and committees
  • Training and career development
  • Performance management
  • Opportunities to enjoy all FaHCSIA supported social or recreational activities
  • Promotion, transfer, or any other employment benefit

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2. Definitions 

Disability - this policy adopts the broad definition of disability used in the Disability Discrimination Act (1992), which, in the context of employment, can be summed up as a condition either caused by accident, trauma, injury genetics or disease that may restrict a person's mental, sensory or mobility functions to undertake or perform a job in the same way as a person who does not have disability. This includes physical, sensory, intellectual, mental health, neurological and learning disabilities, as well as physical disfigurement and serious illnesses. Disability may be temporary or permanent, total or partial, lifelong or acquired.

Disclosure refers to a personal decision to tell a person or institution about one's disability. There is no legal obligation for a job applicant or employee to disclose their disability, unless it is likely to affect their performance to meet the inherent requirements of the job (including ensuring the safety of themselves and others).

Discrimination - the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) identifies two types of discrimination in relation to people with disability. Direct Discrimination is when someone with disability receives less favourable treatment than a person without disability in the same circumstances. Indirect Discrimination is when a policy, practice or requirement is applied equally but has a discriminatory effect on people with disability.

Inherent Requirements are the essential activities and tasks that must be carried out in order to get a job done. Inherent requirements relate to results, or what must be accomplished, rather than means, or how it is accomplished.

Merit Principle means the selection and advancement of employees according to their relative abilities, knowledge, and skills under fair and open competition.

Reasonable Adjustment refers to the administrative, environmental, or procedural alterations required to enable a person with disability to work effectively and enjoy equal opportunity with others. By law, employers are required to provide reasonable adjustments whenever it is necessary, reasonable, and possible to do so (i.e., when a reasonable adjustment does not constitute an unjustifiable hardship for the employer). Reasonable adjustments may include:
  • provision of appropriate equipment or assistance to ensure there is no barrier in the selection process;
  • job redesign;
  • training or retraining;
  • providing essential information in suitable formats;
  • modifications to equipment or the supply of specialised equipment, furniture or work related aids;
  • flexible work arrangements; or
  • alterations to premises or work areas.
See Section 10 for specific examples of reasonable adjustments.

Unjustifiable Hardship - employers are obligated to provide reasonable adjustments unless such an adjustment would result in unjustifiable hardship to the employer. It is difficult to define unjustifiable hardship because each circumstance and organisation is unique and is determined on a case-by-case basis. However, unjustifiable hardship is generally determined by considering:
  • The cost of the adjustment required in light of the organisation's financial situation, and
  • The extent to which the adjustment will result in substantial benefits or detriments to other employees, including those who do not have disability.
"Reasonable" is defined by whether or not the adjustment would create "unjustifiable hardship" to the whole organisation; it is never defined by a particular manager's opinion of what is reasonable.

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3. Communicating the Availability of Reasonable Adjustments 

FaHCSIA ensures that all applicants and employees are notified of the availability of reasonable adjustments, as follows.

Job Applicants


The Disability Access Coordinator (DAC) 62009512 email DAC (diversity@dss.gov.au) is responsible for:
  • Ensuring that all applicants invited for interviews are notified that they can request adjustments for their disability for the interview process and informed of the procedure for making an adjustment request.
  • Ensuring that the following paragraph or its equivalent is added to any application forms and interview correspondence:
    • 'It is the policy of FaHCSIA to provide reasonable adjustments for qualified persons with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment. If you need assistance or adjustments to fully participate in the application/interview process, please contact the Disability Access Coordinator (DAC), Robyn Forester, phone number (02) 62009512. If you are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment, you can use the National Relay Service to contact any of FaHCSIA's listed phone numbers. Employment opportunities will not be denied to anyone because of the need to make reasonable adjustment for a person's disability.'
  • Where interviews are scheduled by telephone, ensuring all applicants are informed about the availability of reasonable adjustments in the interview process. Specifically, the scheduler should ask:
    • 'Do you require any special arrangements to enable you to equitably participate in the interview?'

Current Employees

People Branch is responsible for:

  • Ensuring that information concerning the reasonable adjustment policy and procedure is shared during the induction of new employees.
  • Referring people for whom a reasonable adjustment might be appropriate to the Disability Access Coordinator (DAC).

Managers are responsible for:
  • Advising employees of the reasonable adjustment policy and procedure upon job commencement and during performance reviews (by asking, for example, 'Have you been informed of FaCSIA's Reasonable Adjustment Policy?').
  • Ensuring that information about the Reasonable Adjustment Policy is readily available in the work areas of employees supervised (in the same way that information about fire safety protocols is available).
  • Explaining the reasonable adjustment procedure and either contacting the DAC when approached by an employee requesting an adjustment or assisting the employee to contact the DAC.
  • Navigating through the reasonable adjustment procedure when appropriate.

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4. Confidentiality 

At all times, the individual(s) responsible for processing a request for a reasonable adjustment or implementing a reasonable adjustment will respect the privacy of the applicant or employee who has requested the adjustment. Information about the applicant or employee's disability will only be disclosed to a third party with the consent of the applicant or employee.

However, in order to introduce an adjustment into the workplace, it will be necessary for information about the impact of the employee's disability or condition on their work performance to be disclosed to the appropriate supervisor (s).

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5. Reasonable Adjustment Procedure 

5.1 Request

  • Applicants will make requests for adjustments either to the contact person for the advertised position or to the DAC directly.
    • If, upon being approached by an applicant, the contact person can easily and informally meet the request to the satisfaction of both parties, he/she will do so and the procedure will end. If not, the contact person will either assist the applicant to contact the DAC or, with the applicant's permission, refer the request to the DAC on behalf of the applicant.
  • Employees will make requests for reasonable adjustments to their manager or to the DAC directly.
    • If a manager thinks a reasonable adjustment might be appropriate for an employee under his/her supervision, she/he will either approach the employee to discuss the matter (if comfortable doing so) or contact the DAC for advice.
    • If, upon approaching or being approached by an employee to discuss a possible reasonable adjustment, a manager can easily and informally make the adjustment to the satisfaction of both parties, she/he will do so and the procedure will end. If not, the manager will either assist the employee to contact the DAC or, with the employee's permission, refer the matter to the DAC on behalf of the employee.
  • Upon receiving a verbal or written adjustment request, the DAC will ensure the applicant or employee requesting the adjustment completes a Reasonable Adjustment Request Form (See Attachment A). The DAC will assist the applicant or employee to complete this form when necessary.
  • The DAC will acknowledge receipt of each request by signing and dating the form in the space provided. One copy is to be returned to the applicant or employee and a second copy is to be retained by the DAC.
  • The DAC will also inform the applicant or employee of the process and timeframe for processing their request. Specifically, it will be explained to the applicant or employee that a decision will be notified within ten business days, and that if the request is approved, implementation of the relevant reasonable adjustment will commence within ten business days of receipt of the request.
  • The DAC will open a confidential workplace adjustment file to record the request and any information collected throughout the process of addressing it. The workplace adjustment file will be kept separate from the employee's personal records and will only be accessible to the applicant or employee and the DAC involved in the adjustment process.

5.2 Assess and Reach a Decision

In consultation with the applicant or the employee, the DAC will evaluate the request and determine what, if any, adjustment is appropriate.

For a job applicant, the DAC is responsible for:

  • Determining the recruitment-relevant limitation(s) created by the applicant's disability. Depending on their disability and the nature of the adjustment requested, the applicant may be required to provide documentary evidence about their disability and the functional limitations it involves. This evidence may be obtained from a medical practitioner, psychologist or other relevant professional.
  • Identifying possible adjustments and assessing the effectiveness of each one in enabling the applicant to equitably participate in the recruitment process (e.g., an interview or assessment test).
  • Recommending the adjustment(s) that is most appropriate for both the applicant and FaHCSIA. Though the applicant's preference will be considered, FaHCSIA is free to choose among equally effective options.
  • Considering whether the recommended adjustment constitutes an unjustifiable hardship for FaHCSIA.
  • On the basis of the above, making a decision as to whether FaHCSIA will supply the recommended adjustment.
  • Communicating the decision to the applicant. If the request is not approved, the DAC will inform the applicant of the decision and the reason for denial of the requested adjustment within 10 business days of the request (Note: If the request is denied on the basis that it constitutes an unjustifiable hardship for FaHCSIA, the DAC will seek a review of the decision from a designated authority before notifying the applicant).

For a current employee (or an applicant who has received a job offer), the relevant steps taken by the DAC will be:

  • Establishing whether the employee has disability. Here the employee may be required to provide documentary evidence about their disability and the functional limitations it involves. This evidence may be obtained from a medical practitioner, psychologist or other relevant professional.
  • Accessing information about the inherent requirements of the particular job involved.
  • Determining any job-relevant limitation(s) created by the employee's disability.
  • Identifying possible adjustments and assessing the effectiveness of each one in enabling the employee to perform the inherent requirements of the job.
  • Recommending the adjustment that is most appropriate for both the employee and FaHCSIA. Though the employee's preference will be considered, FaHCSIA is free to choose among equally effective options.
  • Considering whether the recommended adjustment constitutes an unjustifiable hardship for FaHCSIA.
  • On the basis of the above, making a decision as to whether FaHCSIA will supply the recommended adjustment.
  • Communicating the decision to the employee. If the request is not approved, the DAC will inform the employee of the decision and the reason for denial of the requested adjustment within ten (10) business days of the request (Note: If the request is denied on the basis that it constitutes an unjustifiable hardship for FaHCSIA, the DAC will seek a review of the decision from a designated authority before notifying employee).

Consultation with Experts

Where further evaluation is required to reach an informed decision about the adjustment request of an applicant or employee, the DAC will obtain additional information from, and/or liaise with, the following (as appropriate, and with the consent of the applicant or employee):

  • the employee's supervisor;
  • a Designated Work Group Health and Safety Representative;
  • the Assistive Technology Management Advisory Group (ATMAG);
  • a medical practitioner;
  • an occupational therapist or other allied health provider;
  • disability service provider; and
  • IT specialists.

5.3 Implementing Adjustments

  • Within 10 business days of an applicant or employee's submission of a request for a reasonable adjustment, the DAC will either grant or deny the request in writing. Where an adjustment will be provided, the DAC will arrange the provision or implementation of the adjustment.
  • Once a decision to implement a reasonable adjustment for an employee has been made, the DAC will discuss the implementation of the adjustment with the employee and the employee's manager before arranging for implementation of the adjustment.
  • Where the provision or implementation of a reasonable adjustment will take longer than 10 business days, the steps taken to order, secure or carry out the adjustment will be documented and discussed with the applicant or employee.
  • Where further supporting documentation is sought from the applicant or employee, the grant or denial of a request for reasonable adjustment will be rendered within 10 business days from the receipt of the appropriate documentation.
  • Application, interview and assessment due dates and timeframes will be extended to accommodate for delays due to the processing and implementation of requests for reasonable adjustments.
  • Where the adjustment involves rehabilitation due to an extended absence from work, the DAC, in conjunction with the manager, will design an appropriate return to work plan, which will be administered under normal case management guidelines.
  • Where alterations are required to buildings or facilities, the DAC will negotiate with relevant personnel from the Property Operations Section to carry out the alterations. A record of alterations or plans in progress should be forwarded to the DAC to be held on the workplace adjustment file.

5.4 Monitoring Adjustments

The DAC will check with the employee and manager to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of the implemented adjustment approximately 4 weeks from the date the adjustment process was concluded. The results of this action should be documented in the workplace adjustment file. If no further follow-up or monitoring is required, the DAC will close the workplace adjustment file. Otherwise the situation will be monitored according to an appropriate schedule. The DAC has responsibility for evaluating, monitoring and reporting on the reasonable adjustment process.

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6. Financial Responsibility 

People Branch Responsibility

People Branch has centralised assistive technology funding. The list below is a sample of the available work-related reasonable adjustments:

  • Specialist technology such as Dragon software, Jaws and MAGIC software, and some computer hardware;
  • Sign language interpreters;
  • Occupational therapist assessments - employer initiated;
  • Software training;
  • Hiring services that enable staff with disabilities to maintain independence and meet health requirements;
  • Specialised equipment such as page-turners etc.;
  • Specialist training for co-workers; and
  • Documents in Braille.

The DAC will process requests for centralised funding of reasonable adjustments. Documentation related to cumulative expenditure should be retained on the workplace adjustment file.

Property Operations Section Responsibility

Reasonable adjustments associated with access to FaHCSIA's accommodation will be managed by Property Operations Section, who will seek funding on a case-by-case basis. Examples include but are not limited to the following:

  • Accessible doors and electronic access to or between buildings;
  • Lifts;
  • Stair strips and railings;
  • OH&S requirements that benefit a number of staff within FaCSIA (e.g., making a BBQ area accessible, disabled parking markings); and
  • Physical access modifications.

Branch Responsibility

Branches will continue to be responsible for the following:

  • Staff resource issues relating to accommodating reasonable adjustment hours and productivity;
  • Co-worker support and some training;
  • Document holders;
  • Glare filters;
  • Monitor raisers;
  • Floor mats;
  • Wrist rests;
  • Desk lamps;
  • Phone headsets;
  • Chairs and adjustment of desks;
  • Ergonomic assessments or employee-requested Occupational Therapist assessments;
  • Computers, mice etc; and
  • OH&S requirements.

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7. Appeals 

Employees dissatisfied with a decision or action taken in relation to a claim for a reasonable adjustment may seek a review of that employment action under the FaHCSIA Collective Agreement.

Upon receiving a request for such a review, the appropriate individual (or their appointed representative) will resolve the issue by:
  • Obtaining (from the DAC) and reviewing all documentation relating to the request for reasonable adjustment;
  • Meeting with the supervisor and the applicant or employee (may include personal carer or guardian or a staff or union representative);
  • Consulting with the DAC;
  • Reviewing the inherent requirements of the position, position-related limitations involving the applicant's or employee's disability, and potential adjustments;
  • Evaluating the reasonableness of applicant or employee and supervisor preferences in adjustments, giving primary consideration to the applicant's or employee's preferences; and
  • Issuing a written determination on the request for reasonable adjustment, specifying what adjustment will be provided, if any, and directing the DAC to arrange and monitor the implementation of such accommodation promptly.

People applying for positions with FaHCSIA who are dissatisfied with a decision or action taken in relation to a claim for a reasonable adjustment may lodge a formal complaint with the Secretary, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Box 7576, Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610.

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8. Authority 

  • Disability Discrimination Act (C'th) 1992 and relevant state legislation and acts.

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9. Case Study of Reasonable Adjustment 

Bill applied for a position as a policy analyst at FaHCSIA. His impressive educational qualifications and previous work experience indicated he would be an appropriate candidate for the role. The interview panel was impressed with Bill and certain that he had the necessary competency. When asked how he would complete the tasks required, Bill disclosed that he had low vision due to an eye condition. He explained that in his previous roles he has been aided by a series of accommodations, including a large screen monitor for his computer and the enlargement of print material by photocopier.

The interview panel recognised that Bill was the most qualified for the role and understood that through the provision of reasonable adjustments he would be able to meet the required outcomes of the position. Prior to job commencement, arrangements were made for purchasing an appropriate computer screen and co-workers were trained about how to enlarge print materials on the photocopier, when required. At appropriate intervals, the Disability Access Coordinator checks with Bill and his manager to assess the effectiveness of the accommodations.

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10. Examples of Reasonable Adjustments 

The principle of reasonable adjustment applies to all areas of employment. Below are examples of how this principle may be applied to particular aspects of employment.

Recruitment

Reasonable adjustments during recruitment may include:

  • Making all materials related to the recruitment process (including position descriptions, selection criteria, application forms, questionnaires) available in preferred formats on request. (Note: if necessary, submission deadlines will be extended to applicants requiring alternative formats that delay their receipt or submission of application materials).
  • Arranging interpreters, readers, attendants or other assistants during interviews.

Job Redesign/Sharing

Job redesign includes any changes in working conditions (e.g., scheduling, work environment, team culture) that improve the employee's ability to do the job and may include:

  • Modifying attendance policies.
  • Providing flexible scheduling options.
  • Allowing time-off for counselling or other medical appointments (e.g., rehabilitation, assessment or treatment).
  • Allowing home-based work (See the FaCSIA Home Based Work Guidelines for further information).
  • Allowing longer breaks.
  • Exchanging one task in a job for another (For example, exchanging telephone duties with filing duties for a hearing impaired person).
  • Modifying performance agreement expectations.

Job sharing involves two or more people sharing responsibilities for the same job, examples include:

  • Allocating some of the employee's duties to another person.
  • Having two people share a full-time job, for example, by having one person work Monday and Tuesday and the other work Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Co-worker supports

  • Training for co-workers as required.
  • Recognition of co-worker support impact on performance expectations.

Workplace Modifications

Workplace modifications may include:

  • Improving physical accessibility:
    • Installing floor coverings, matting, carpet mats, and removing cords on floors or hanging plants.
    • Positioning an individual's workstation in an appropriate area that best meets their needs (e.g., nearer to rest rooms or behind sound reduction barriers).
    • Lowering control panels and emergency buttons/phones in lifts.
  • Modifying work-site temperatures:
    • Providing work areas with temperature control.
    • Temporary air conditioners, fans, heaters or proper ventilation and redirecting vents.
  • Providing ergonomic devices:
    • Specific seating (office chair, prop seats etc.), headsets, footstools backrests or cushions.
    • Computer monitor risers and document stands and ergonomic arms, ports or tilt-boards.
  • Installing sound reducing devices, particularly for individuals with mental health issues, stress issues and hearing impairments:
    • Environmental sound machines - help block out extraneous noises that are often found to be distracting. They can reduce stress in the work environment.
    • Sound absorption panels.
  • Modifying lighting for eye sensitivity:
    • Anti-glare filters for computer screens to relieve eyestrain, fatigue, headaches and stress.
    • Place blinds on windows, flicker free lighting, full spectrum lighting, light filters for covering fluorescent lighting, lower wattage overhead lights, task lighting or other alternative lighting.
  • Installing indoor air cleaning systems to remove allergens and pollutants.
  • Providing time management and organisational devices:
    • Day planner, calendar, electronic organisers, and multi-set alarm wristwatch that beeps or vibrates.
    • Written instructions and checklists, voice-activated tape recorder for verbal instructions or instructional diagrams for office equipment.
  • Changes to make work safer for all employees:
    • Safer manual handling practices.
    • Substitutes for manual handling.
  • General training for co-workers or supervisors.
  • Specific training and support for an employee with disability.
  • Providing of additional equipment or facilities:
    • Providing TTY telephones.
    • Providing large screen computer monitors and/or keyboards.
    • Using tape recorders instead of memo pads to take and leave messages for the sight impaired.
    • Provision of raised wooden platforms to photocopiers/fax/printers etc for people of small stature
  • Provision of interpreters, readers, attendants or other work related assistance.
  • Modifications to work related communications or information provision, including the form or format in which information is available.
  • Permitting or facilitating a person to use equipment or assistance provided by the person with disability or by another person or organization.
  • Arranging temporary light duties: Duties can be temporarily altered to suit individuals who have a temporary mobility problem such as a broken leg or arm. Temporary changes can be made to duties whilst awaiting delivery of equipment, such as a TTY machine for the hearing impaired.

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Attachment A - Request for Reasonable Adjustment Form 

Last updated 2008 

The Department is committed to ensuring an accessible and inclusive work environment to enable people with disability to participate fully in all aspects of employment.

This form is to be used to request reasonable adjustments to be made to enable appropriately skilled people with disabilities to perform the inherent requirements of their positions.

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