Thursday, 1 May 2014

Use of Business Services Wage Assessment Tool extended for one year

Late last year, Down Syndrome Australia joined other peak bodies calling for the abolition of the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT), after the High Court found it disadvantaged workers. The Australian government then applied for a three year exemption from relevant provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act before implementing the recommended changes. The outcome of the application was announced this week:

Application for exemption from Disability Discrimination Act 1992 for Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT)
Australian Human Rights Commission media release, 29th April 2014
On 5 September 2013 the Commission received an application for a temporary exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 from the Commonwealth. The application sought a three year exemption under the Disability Discrimination Act for the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT). The application was also made on behalf of all the Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) who use the BSWAT. 
The application was published on the Commission website with a 6 week period for submissions. Over 100 submissions were received from various stakeholders.
On 13 December 2013 the Commission sought further submissions from the applicants and a small number of stakeholders in relation to various alternative tools that had been proposed in the submissions received by the Commission. The Commission received a further 5 submissions in response to the request for further information. 
The Commission has decided to grant the Applicants a temporary exemption from the operation of sections 15, 24 and 29 of the Disability Discrimination Act to allow the payment of wages to ADE employees, based on assessments already conducted with the BSWAT, for a period of 12 months, subject to the following conditions:
The Commonwealth: 
a. Take all necessary steps to transition to the Supported Wage System, or an alternative tool approved by the Fair Work Commission, as quickly as possible.
b. Immediately commence using the Supported Wage System, or an alternative tool approved by the Fair Work Commission, to conduct new and outstanding wage assessments.
c. Report to the Commission on a quarterly basis during the exemption period as to:
i. The number of assessments conducted each quarter; and
ii. The number of assessments still to be conducted.
d. Give consideration to ensuring that no disadvantage is suffered by ADE employees whose wages may be reduced as a result of the application of the Supported Wage System or alternative tool.
As this decision can be reviewed under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975, this is the only statement the Commission will be making on this matter.
A copy of the Notice of Grant of a Temporary Exemption is online at https://www.humanrights.gov.au/department-social-services-dss.
People with Disability Australia media release, on behalf of a number of peak bodies, including Down Syndrome Australia), 30th April 2014
National peak disability and advocacy groups condemn the decision by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to allow the Australian Government and sheltered workshops (also known as Australian Disability Enterprises or ‘ADEs’) to continue to discriminate against employees with disability.

However, we also applaud the AHRC for placing the final nail in the coffin of BSWAT and other competency-based wage assessment tools ...
read on here

Wage assessment tool approved for short term use
Senator The Hon Mitch Fifield, Assistant Minister for Social Services, (media release) 29th April 2014
The Australian Human Rights Commission will allow the payment of wages to supported employees in Australian Disability Enterprises who have already been assessed under the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) for another 12 months, subject to conditions ... It is disappointing that, on face value, the decision does not provide Australian Disability Enterprises with the amount of time they need to transition to new wage setting arrangements.

We have been working hard to resolve this issue and as part of this the Government has already announced the establishment of a payment scheme for supported employees with intellectual disability in Australian Disability Enterprises who previously had their wages assessed under the BSWAT ...
read the full text here

Ruling lets government pay some disabled workers $1 an hour
Rick Morton, The Australian, 29th April 2014
The Australian government can continue to pay some disabled workers as little as one dollar an hour under a temporary exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act granted by the top human rights body late today.

The Australian Human Rights Commission knocked back an application from the Commonwealth for a three-year exemption from the Act and instead agreed to a 12-month exemption for employees who had already been assessed under the faulty wage determination tool known as the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool ...
read on here.

Wage assessments in Australian Disability Enterprises (Department of Social Services)

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