Office for the Public Sector


Disability Employment

The Government of South Australia encourages and values diversity by supporting workplace cultures based on fair and equitable treatment of employees. Supporting the employment of people with disability is a key focus of our commitment to workplace diversity.

Research shows that workers with a disability benefit employers by improving their operations and strengthening links with the community.

The benefits for employers include:

  • employees with disabilities often have better attendance and safety records
  • employees with disabilities often have a higher staff retention rate, which saves recruitment and training costs
  • the employment of workers with disabilities is often viewed positively by co-workers and can have a positive effect on workplace morale.

A disability can be temporary (such as an illness) or permanent. A disability can be a physical disability such as an illness, a deformity or the total or partial loss of a body part or function. It can be an intellectual disability or a learning disability. Disability also includes mental illness, such as an illness that affects thought processes, perceptions of reality, emotions or judgement or that leads to disturbed behaviour. It is against the law to treat staff unfairly because of a disability, regardless of whether the disability is permanent or temporary.

In South Australia the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 includes discrimination on the grounds of disability. All employers are legally obliged to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace and when hiring or dismissing staff.

What is Disability Discrimination?

Direct disability discrimination is unfairly treating people because of their disability, whether it is a past, present or future disability. Discrimination against workers with a disability may include:

  • not hiring someone based on a perceived or actual disability
  • dismissal or demotion
  • denying or limiting access to promotion, transfer, training or any other benefits
  • unreasonable workplace policies, practices and procedures.

For example:

  • Neville’s job offer was withdrawn after a medical test showed his learning disability meant he would need more time at the start to learn the tasks required. The firm directly discriminated against Neville because of his disability.

Indirect disability discrimination is treatment which appears to be equal but is unfair on certain people because of their disability. To be unlawful it must be unreasonable. For example:

  • Lucy was refused employment because she had made a previous Work Cover claim. This is a case of disability discrimination.

It is also discriminating to refuse to make special measures available so that the person can do the job, where that would be reasonable. Workers with a disability must be provided with any special facilities, services or reasonable accommodations they need to do their job, unless it would cause the employer unjustifiable hardship. Discrimination can also happen because of a perceived disability. If you assume a person with a disability is not able to do the job without checking, it could be disability discrimination. It is also unlawful discrimination to treat people unfairly because of a disability they had in the past or one they may develop in the future. Employers are also liable if staff discriminate against each other because of a disability, and may be held responsible. If you are unsure of your rights and obligations regarding workers with a disability, contact the Equal Opportunity Commission for advice.  

Disability Tools and Resources

For Disability Tools and Resources please click on this link.

Disability awareness

It’s important that all public sector employees are aware of the:

  • definitions and types of disabilities, and the likely associated access requirements of people with various disabilities
  • positive contributions and abilities of people with a disability
  • stereotypes and misconceptions about people with a disability
  • disabling factors in society, including the physical and social environment
  • communication skills that enable people to more effectively communicate at work and socialise with people with a disability
  • disability legislation and legal requirements for disability equality.


More information

The Office of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment has established a Disability Employment Reference Committee with agencies represented across the public sector.

If you would like more information please contact

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