The right to work free from discrimination on any basis is a fundamental human right. Many people living with mental illness are denied this right and as a result are prevented from enjoying the independence, dignity and sense of purpose that work brings.
The Willing to Work National Inquiry
In 2015, the Australian Human Rights Commission undertook the Willing to Work National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination Against Older Australians and Australians with Disability.
The Inquiry released an issues paper for consultation. According to the issues paper, people with psychosocial disability have the lowest labour force participation rate compared, for instance, with people with a sensory or speech impairment or people with a physical restriction.
The Inquiry examined practices, attitudes and Commonwealth laws that deny or diminish equal participation. It also sought to make recommendations about changes that may be needed to Commonwealth laws and action that should be taken to address employment discrimination against older Australians and Australians with disability.
Willing to Work submission
We worked with the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ) to prepare a joint Submission to the Willing to Work Inquiry which was informed by the views of people affected by discrimination and research into the impact of discrimination and what works to overcome this very significant barrier to people living with mental illness from living a life with purpose.
It also drew on the many situations people living with mental illness have told us about which highlight the consequences of entrenched stigma, poor employment practices and a lack of imagination in including people with disability and mental illness in the workplace.
Our submission sought to be practical and drew on wide-ranging experience. It examined the barriers people with disability or mental illness experience in getting and keeping a job and proposed a number of solutions to these barriers. It also gave some real examples of how these barriers impact on workers and jobseekers with disability or mental illness and examples of good practice occurring here in Queensland and overseas.
Read our joint media release Opportunity, imagination, innovation key to jobs for people with disability.
Highlighting employment barriers
The Commission and ADCQ held a forum to consider the practices, attitudes and laws that prevent equal participation in the workforce by people with disability and living with a mental illness, and effective solutions to overcome these barriers.
The submission indicated that:
- laws which protect people from discrimination need to stay in place, but work is needed to raise awareness among employers bout these laws and how they can meet their obligations as good employers.
- impairment, including mental illness, is part of the human condition and there is a need to reframe the community’s understanding of mental illness, reinforcing that everyone adds value to the workplace and we all need systems that support us to be productive at work.
The submission also acknowledged and highlighted good practice. Good practice in the areas of social enterprises and opportunities through social procurement were highlighted. The Australian Human Rights Commission released its report in May 2016.
Partnering with the Anti-Discrimination Commission
We provided a joint submission to the Willing to Work Inquiry with the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ).
The Commission and ADCQ have a common goal – to promote more inclusive systems and positive attitudes towards disability and mental illness. We listen to people affected by discrimination and provide advice to government and the community on barriers that need to be addressed.
The aim of the Willing to Work Inquiry in tackling employment discrimination against people with disability including mental illness is core business for both Commissions.
Final report and next steps
The Willing to Work: National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination Against Older Australians and Australians with Disability report was released in May 2016. The Australian Government is considering its response.