Even though 1 in 6 people live with a disability in Australia, people with disability are underrepresented in Australian workplaces. For women living with disability, workplace participation rates are even lower. While 71.6% of women in Australia are working, only 49.4% of women with disability are employed.
Although many women living with disability face barriers when it comes to finding work and thriving in the workplace, it’s still possible to lead a fulfilling and successful work life.
Whether you’re wanting to get into a job or want to get more out of your current role, it’s important to have the right supports and strategies in place.
Here are 6 tips for succeeding at work while living with a disability.
1. Know your rights
In Australia, there are laws in place to protect you in the workplace. Everyone has the right to work in a safe workplace without discrimination or harassment, and it’s against the law for an employer to treat you unfairly because of your disability.
This includes not hiring you because of your disability or offering you different or unfair job terms compared to other employees. It is also against the law for an employer to change your job in a way that disadvantages you, or to fire you because of your disability.
You’re not legally required to tell an employer about your disability unless it affects your ability to do the essential tasks of the job. Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to help you do your job properly and safely.
2. Find a job where your strengths shine
Whatever your goals and needs are when it comes to work, finding a job that’s a good fit for you can help you feel more confident and in control. When looking for work, think about what you’re good at doing, what you enjoy doing and what types of work environments are best for you.
The right job should let you use your strengths and skills, while minimising your weaknesses and challenges. Keep in mind that many types of jobs can be made more accessible with simple workplace accommodations and specialised technology.
Talking with an employment consultant can help you discover job opportunities that are a good fit for you. An employment consultant will get to know your unique strengths, goals and challenges, and help you plan your next steps. They can also help you access any funding, supports or services you might be eligible for.
3. Ask for accommodations
Accommodations can help you overcome some of the challenges you face at work. In Australia, employers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments so that employees can do their job properly and safely.
Reasonable adjustments may include things like:
- Working from home
- Taking time of for health appointments
- Working part time
- Ergonomic equipment
- Specialised technology
- Regular break times
- Reassigning particular tasks
If you feel comfortable, you can ask your employer directly for adjustments. Or you can speak with a Disability Employment Services provider who can support you through the process. Your provider can also help you access any funding or financial assistance for adjustments that you might be eligible for.
4. Get support
It’s important to have a strong support network both at work and outside of work. In addition to friends, family and trusted co-workers, consider peer support groups and therapy. When your support network is strong, it can help you get through challenges that may arise.
If your disability impacts your ability to find work or hold down a job, you could be eligible for tailored disability employment support at no cost. The government-funded Disability Employment Services program can help with things like career planning, finding suitable job opportunities, writing your resume, gaining workplace skills and accessing accommodations.
To find out if you’re eligible, contact Centrelink or get in touch directly with a provider in your area.
5. Focus on your health and well being
Looking after your physical and mental health can help you perform better at work. Everyone has different needs when it comes to health and well being. It’s important to work closely with your healthcare team to find strategies, treatments and routines that work for you. Using a diary or health app to track your health can help you spot patterns and tailor your health plan to better suit your current needs.
In general, eating a nutritious diet, doing regular physical activity and getting good quality sleep can be highly impactful. Stress management is also beneficial for mental and physical well being. Consider using relaxation techniques, mindfulness or breath meditations in your daily routine to help deal with work stress.
6. Plan for the long term
Knowing where you want to be in the future can help you better plan your next employment steps. Try using SMART goals. That is, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Speaking with an employment consultant can also help you plan your career for short and long term success.
Of course, living with a long term disability or health condition can make it challenging to predict or plan for the future. When setting goals, be sure to leave room for flexibility and self care.
Despite the challenges, many women with disability lead successful, fulfilling and balanced work lives. If you’re finding it hard to find a job or cope in your current role, it’s important to reach out for help. Having the right resources and support can empower you to find employment, thrive in the workplace and work towards your long term goals.