John Lloyd2The Australian Public Service Commission launched its Disability Employment Strategy on May 31. The As One: Making it Happen, APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016-19 was developed in consultation with APS agencies and peak disability bodies. It sets out actions to increase the recruitment of people with disability to ensure employees with disability have opportunities for career progression and that workplaces are accessible and inclusive.

APS Commissioner John Lloyd (pictured) said the Australian public sector is well placed to lead the way in disability employment. “Our workforce is large and geographically dispersed, and provides services to all Australians. We can make a real difference as an employer and a role model” The APSC has developed a range of resources to assist agencies implement the strategy including an Implementation Guide for HR managers, a manager’s toolkit and resources for employees. These can all be found on the disability pages on the APSC website. 

The new strategy builds on the initiatives and momentum of the first strategy published in 2012 which was intended to improve the employment experience for people with disability in the APS and as such forms part of the Commonwealth’s response to the National Disability Strategy 2010–20.

With approximately one in five Australians identifying with disability, improving the representation of people with disability in the workforce will enable the APS to respond more capably to the needs of the community, Lloyd said. “By representing the Australian population’s diversity, we are better placed to communicate, understand and meet the full range of needs. With an ageing workforce and shrinking labour market, it is important to be an employer of choice. This requires agencies to be disability confident and offer rewarding careers in which people with disability are supported to perform at their best,” he said. “Our goal is to increase the representation of employees with disability across the APS, including Indigenous people where rates of disability are significantly higher.”

As One: Making it Happen focuses on four key action areas:

Expand the range of employment opportunities for people with disability by: Investing  in developing the capability of employees with disability; increasing the representation of employees with disability in senior roles and fostering inclusive cultures in the workplac

 Principles that guide agencies’ actions

Sustainable improvement in representation of people with disability will be driven by the following principles:

  1. Accountability—the head of each APS agency is accountable for improving the representation of people with disability in their workforce.
  2. Leadership—all APS leaders must participate and take real action to drive improvements in the employment of people with disability.
  3. Capability—the public service must have inclusive and accessible workplaces where employees with disability are supported and valued for their contribution and where managers encourage flexible working arrangements.
  4. Partnership—between APS agencies, non-government organisations and the private sector, to improve employment outcomes for people with disability and share best practice.

Measuring and reporting against action areas

The success of the actions will be measured by:

  1. An increase in the number of people with disability who come to work for the APS
  2. An improvement in reported job satisfaction for employees with disability
  3. An increase in the number of people with disability in senior leadership roles
  4. An increase in the number of employees who identify as having disability in agency human resource systems.

(This information is collected by the APSC annually).

Suite of actions

Agencies have different needs. In recognition of this, a suite of actions is set out under each of the four key action areas. Agencies should adopt those actions best suited to their needs.

The APSC will publish practical resources for disability employment, including agency programs and policies to share on its website. This will allow agencies to collaborate on initiatives and achieve greater impact within existing resources. These resources will be updated regularly.

Expand the range of employment opportunities for people with disability

To improve representation, agencies should review and expand the opportunities they offer to people with disability. Agencies should adopt a range of contemporary recruitment approaches to increasing the representation of people with disability in their workforce.


  1. Apply the RecruitAbility scheme to a broad range of vacancies, including graduate programs and Senior Executive Service roles, to maximise opportunities for people with disability.
  2. Expand pathways into APS employment, including through the use of disability affirmative measures in the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2013 and the use of internships.
  3. Ensure recruitment and selection teams are disability aware and confident.
  4. Partner with disability employment service providers, universities and disability peak bodies to promote awareness of the range of jobs in the APS and to reach more job seekers with disability.
  5. Promote government procurement from businesses that employ people with a disability.

Invest in developing the capability of employees with disability

Employees with disability should be equipped to progress their careers at the same rate as others in the workplace and have equal opportunity to demonstrate their suitability for promotion. Making reasonable adjustments helps create a level playing field and enables employees with disability to perform at their best.


  1. Make the workplace accessible.
  2. Make workplace adjustments where required, including job design and flexible work arrangements, to maximise productivity.
  3. Implement adjustments—including assistive technology—quickly to enable productivity.
  4.  Provide support for managers and colleagues of people with disability. For example, increase managers’ uptake of Mental Health First Aid training and disability awareness training.

Increase the representation of employees with disability in senior roles

At the heart of change is leadership. Our leaders are stewards of our values—they communicate our priorities and encourage and reward us to perform well. People with disability should be well-represented at senior management levels.


  1. Ensure the inclusion of middle managers with disability in development programs for high performers.
  2. Offer career development opportunities to middle managers with disability who demonstrate consistent high performance.
  3. Provide senior mentors across the APS for employees with disability who have identified a desire to develop.
  4. Attract people with disability at senior levels from the community and private sectors.

Foster inclusive cultures in the workplace

  1. To improve recruitment and retention of employees with disabilities, agencies need workplaces that are genuinely inclusive.
  2. Employees with disability will be more likely to tell their employer they have a disability, particularly when experiencing mental ill health, if they are confident they will be welcomed in the workplace.
  3. Workforce inclusion needs to be a priority for all managers, staff and colleagues, not just those working in human resources. Everyone has a role to play.


  1. Highlight the value of APS Disability Champions as visible advocates for employees with disability—and champions of change within agencies.
  2. Leverage the skills and experiences of people with disability to identify and overcome barriers, whether physical, systemic or attitudinal.
  3. Offer training to improve disability awareness and address unconscious bias.
  4. Integrate disability awareness principles into existing management development and orientation programs.

Expand disability networks to support implementation of inclusive cultures within agencies.