My Job Counts

The jobs of people with a disability who work in Disability Enterprises are under threat. 

 

The Present Situation

There are more than 180 Disability Enterprises, like The Mai-Wel Group, across the country. These not-for-profit businesses employ roughly 20,000 people and provide income, training and – perhaps most importantly – socialisation and support for people with mild to moderate, intellectual, physical and psychosocial disabilities.

While not operating for profit, they do run on tight budgets with the same economic pressures all businesses face. Many Disability Enterprises have to subsidise the business with fundraising to remain viable.

Each Disability Enterprise receives Federal Government funding to provide support for people with disabilities. The level of funding received depends on how much support the employee needs at work. As for pay, these employees receive a percentage of the full rate – known as a ‘pro rata’ wage rate. This is worked out by using a ‘wage assessment tool’ which determines what proportion of the wage is paid to the employee.

The Challenge We Face

In February 2018, the Fair Work Commission will decide how wages for workers with a disability are determined. The outcome could destroy the financial viability of many Disability Enterprises, forcing them out of business and many Australians with disability out of a supportive workplace.

Various disability advocates and the Federal Government are putting forward a different system of working out the rates of pay for Disability Enterprise employees. Although some are driven by good intentions, their proposals have the potential to wreck a viable system that improves the lives of thousands of people with disabilities.

The key problem is that certain advocates and the Government want skill based assessments removed from the wage assessment tool. Instead they are seeking a change to a productivity based wage tool.

This means being paid for how fast you work rather than the skill required to carry out the work. A person who is fast at a simple job would get paid more than someone taking more time to do a complex task.

Paying higher wages for a very simple task or a small part of a job is not sustainable – no operation can stay in business if wage costs are too high. This will destroy the economic viability of the Disability Enterprise system due to the tool’s inequality of determining what a person with a disability gets paid which could lead to an unsustainable outcome for Disability Enterprises resulting in job losses.

This makes no sense for anyone.

The advocates’ proposals are disconnected to the reality of operating a Disability Enterprise. This includes extra supervision, the cost of additional training and the time and sensitivity required in dealing with behavioural difficulties.

The Result if a Productivity Based Wage Assessment Tool is passed by the Fair Work Commission 

Substantial job losses for people with disability

The majority of supported employees will not be able to find work in open employment as mainstream employers can rarely provide the support people with an intellectual disability need – it is too costly and disruptive.

Economic hardship

Between Centrelink support and wages, Disability Enterprise employees generally earn above the minimum wage. Very few would realise this level of income without a Disability Enterprise.

Stress on families

Parents like supported employment because they know their children are developing new skills in a supportive, caring environment. Parents themselves get heavily involved in the workplace community and build their own support among parents. Most importantly, Disability Enterprises allow parents to participate in the workforce themselves.

Loss of social networks

Ask a Mai-Wel supported employee what they love most about their job and the first answer is nearly always ‘making friends and earning an income’. The December 2016 COAG Disability Reform Council Quarterly Report stated that one quarter of people living with disability in NSW reported they had no friends other than family and people paid to support them. Without Disability Enterprises, even more people with disability will be without vital social connections.

Increase cost to taxpayers

No matter how small their contribution, the economy will lose productive workers, skills will be lost and welfare and support payments will increase. It costs taxpayers more to provide support to a person with a disability in a day centre than it does to support them at a Disability Enterprise.

Loss of purpose and identity

Being an employed person who contributes to the economy and society forms the self-identity of most people who work at a Disability Enterprise. They take pride in their job and enjoy feeling valued both by their team and the organisation as a whole. Working provides a purpose, routine and a sense of security.  

What Can I Do?

You can help protect the jobs of employees with a disability by attending the My Job Counts Rally at Turner Rest Park (next to Maitland Police Station), Church Street, Maitland at 10am on Monday 20th November, 2017. Together we can make our voices heard and ensure the continued viability of organisations like The Mai-Wel Group, Access and Delando here in the Hunter.

 

Learn About Us 

About Us

woman and man smiling

The Mai-Wel Group is one of the larger Disability Service Providers in the Lower Hunter Region, providing services and programs to more than 800 clients across nine Local Government Areas.

The Mai-Wel Group employs more than 170 local support and administrative staff in addition to 110 local supported employees. The ethos of The Mai-Wel Group carries throughout the organisation from management and staff, and on to clients.

Learn more about us

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Contact Us

Phone:
(02) 4932 8599

Email:
maiwel@maiwel.com.au

Head Office:
115a South Street, Telarah NSW 2320
Postal Address:
PO Box 835, Maitland NSW 2320

Fax:
(02) 4932 4286

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