3 Steps to take before you ask employees about their disability status

Thu 25 July 2019

Woman and man look comfortable talking together in front of a work station

Before you ask employees to share their disability status, there are some actions you can take to make it safe and easy for them to do so.

Sharing disability status is strongly tied to employees’ perceptions of the workplace generally – a more open and inclusive workplace is likely to build trust and create higher rates of disability information sharing.

Here are three steps to take before you ask employees about their disability status.

1. Build capability to make workplace adjustments

Facilitating adjustments for people with disability will make it easier for you to respond to your workforce as a whole and allow all your employees to perform to the best of their ability. An effective workplace adjustments policy and process maximises the retention of existing employees who may acquire disability, and facilitates employment of skilled candidates with disability. It’s a good idea to clearly promote the fact that you are making adjustments for people with disability.

Free workplace assessments and funding to cover the costs of making workplace changes is available through the Australian Government’s Employment Assistance Fund (EAF). The EAF is available to eligible people with disability who are about to start a job, are self-employed or who are currently working.

For more information and examples, read our Workplace Adjustments Factsheet.

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2. Brief and educate managers about disability

A manager’s role is crucial. Research from the U.S. showed that employees were at least 60 per cent more likely to share their disability status with a supervisor than the Human Resources (HR) department. Managers who are trained and confident to welcome, support and work alongside people with disability will help to cultivate a work environment this is fair, inclusive and enables every employee to reach their full potential.

Find out about our disability confidence training and eLearning solutions for managers or download our Manager's Guide to Creating a Disability Inclusive Workplace.

Workforce diversity data can be gathered as part of a regular staff engagement survey or a more specific survey. The survey should provide enough information to monitor broad trends over time. Have systems set up to capture data and quickly report the results back to your workforce. It’s also a good idea to report the steps you’re undertaking as a result, and the timeframe for implementing them.

Non-anonymous monitoring (e.g. asking employees to record they have a disability in the HR system) can provide more information to track progress over time such as participation in training, career progression and retention, as well as the proportion of staff with disability in different business divisions.

Both forms of asking must stress that participation is voluntary, and confidentiality is assured. Both may lead to individual requests for workplace adjustments, which organisations must be ready to respond to.

Many large organisations will use both methods and may separately record and report on the proportion of employees with a workplace adjustment.

For guidance on what to ask, download our free employers’ guide to Sharing and Monitoring Disability Information in your Workforce.

3. Communicate reasons widely

Tell employees why you are asking. Reiterate that the purpose is to encourage employees who need an adjustment to ask for it, as well as to monitor the organisation’s progress on disability, diversity and inclusion.

Profile employees, including senior staff, who’ve been open with their information and what the benefits have been. For example, a staff member’s request for an adjustment enabled them to take part in a learning and development opportunity that later led to a promotion. Storytelling is a powerful tool to make visible your organisation’s commitment to inclusion and alleviate any fears that might prevent employees from sharing information about their disability.

Find out more practical steps you can take to drive the Disability Inclusion agenda within your organisation. 


This content was adapted from the Australian Network on Disability’s guide to Sharing and Monitoring Disability Information in your Workforce. With thanks to the Australian Government Department of Social Services for providing funding for this project, and to the Australian Human Rights Commission and Business Council Australia for their valuable input.

Join the Network

The Australian Network on Disability (AND) is a member-based national powerhouse of more than 250 private, public and for-purpose organisations actively committed to inclusion of people with disability in business.

As part of our network, we’ll support you to build understanding and expertise, connect with others and check your progress on access and inclusion. Our services, programs and tools make it easier for you to build confidence and capability to welcome people with disability as employees, customers and stakeholders.

Find out more about AND membership.


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