HR Leader logo
Stay connected.   Subscribe  to our newsletter

Lack of disability support creates challenges for Aussies

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read

New research has revealed the hurdles that Aussies face when trying to claim the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Change may be necessary to streamline processes and help protect vulnerable people.

People relying on this pension are reportedly worse off for it, according to research from the e61 Institute. The Understanding the Disability Support Pension: Pathways onto the Benefit report revealed that people “work less and experience worse health outcomes up to five years before they move onto the benefit – illustrating the long and difficult pathway to government support faced by Australians suffering from health conditions”.

The research found that 85 per cent of those who leave employment to receive the DSP do so before receiving payment, and 48.7 per cent leave three years before receiving support. Some wait up to five years before getting any benefits from the DSP.


“Overall, it is clear individuals work less in the lead-up to their disability and do not re-enter to any great degree once they have received the payment,” said e61 Institute chief executive Michael Brennan.

“However, it remains unclear how much of their persistent labour market detachment is due to the disability, and how much (if any) is due to the structure of the income support provided to them.”

These results are concerning, especially considering that around 18 per cent of the Australian population is living with disability. Compounded with lower employment rates, these at-risk workers face a variety of challenges.

Senior researcher at the e61 Institute, Pelin Akyol, said these issues only create further challenges for disabled Australians: “DSP recipients become less likely to be employed, and more likely to exit the labour force, in the lead-up to their benefit claim.”

“This mirrors what happens to the individual’s health outcomes. In the five years leading up to DSP receipt, the health status of individuals consistently declines. DSP participants are 15 percentage points more likely to state they are in poor health in the year before they become DSP participants compared to the five years prior,” explained Ms Akyol.

“There is also a gradual decline in recipients’ mental health and physical health status changes before and after they become DSP participants compared to five years prior.”

Where government policy lags behind, employers can step in to offer support. The Department of Social Services can assist with its An Employer’s Guide to Employing Someone With Disability.

Some of the benefits of hiring people with disability were listed as:

  • Reliable: People with disability take fewer days off, take less sick leave and have a higher retention rate than other workers. The costs to businesses of absenteeism and sick leave for employees with disability can be as low as 34 per cent of the cost incurred by their colleagues.
  • Productive: Once in the right job, people with disability perform equally as well as other employees.
  • Affordable: Recruitment, insurance cover, and compensation costs are lower. People with disability have fewer compensation incidents and accidents at work in comparison to other employees.
  • Good for business: People with disability build strong relationships with customers and boost staff morale and loyalty by helping to create a diverse workforce. Teamwork is enhanced. Real cost savings are realised through reduced turnover, recruitment and retraining costs. Hiring people with disability contributes to the organisation’s overall diversity. It enhances the company’s image among its staff, community and customers with positive benefits to the employer’s brand.



Disability is a persistent condition that limits an employee's capacity to carry out routine tasks. It refers to anything permanent or likely to be permanent, may be chronic or episodic, is attributable to intellectual, mental, or physical impairment, and is likely to require continuous support services.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.