Image of Senate chamber 2The Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) payment scheme has been passed through the Senate. This means Australian Disability Services (ADEs) employees who have been paid a pro-rata wage using the BSWAT can now receive a one-off payment.

Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield, said while representative action in relation to BSWAT continues, “it is a process with an uncertain future.”

However, Shadow Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin, said the legislation denies people with intellectual disability the right to pursue back pay against the Commonwealth through the courts. “The BSWAT Bill will see people with disability prevented from exercising their right to pursue back pay if they choose to be part of the government’s scheme,” she said.

The BSWAT is one of several different tools used to assess the wages of people who work in ADEs. The Federal and High Courts of Australia earlier found the BSWAT to be discriminatory against people with intellectual disability.

The payment scheme is entirely voluntary and participants are required to seek independent financial counselling and legal advice, paid for by the Commonwealth, to help them make an informed choice. “Choice and control rests firmly with the applicant,” Senator Fifield said. “The payment scheme is putting another option on the table, a swift and transparent process in the form of a payment from the government.” The payment scheme will start receiving applications from July 1.

The government has committed $173 million in a separate process to help the supported employment sector work towards new wage arrangements for supported employees currently working in ADEs. A further $17 million to assist eligible ADEs to access professional services to build business performance and sustainability was announced in the 2015 Budget.

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