In New Zealand, people with a disability are less likely to be employed than the general population. However with a few modifications and the right support, most workplaces can accommodate employees with a disability.
There are a number of sources of support where you could get assistance with:
- Help to get work experience or to look for a job.
- Special work equipment or changes to your workplace.
- Wage and training subsidies while you gain skills and experience to work.
- On-the-job induction, coaching or training.
- Help with transport.
If your disability is due to an injury
ACC can support you in returning to work in a number of ways. They could help arrange a gradual return to work and develop a rehabilitation plan which will look at what support you need in the workplace.
ACC may also carry out a workplace assessment looking at aspects such as:
- Getting to and from work.
- Setting up your work station.
- Checking in on your progress.
If you are unable to return to your existing job after your injury then ACC can help you with assessing your skills and work options and supporting you back into the workplace.
If you have a long term disability or health condition
The government can offer a range of support measures to help you get back into the workplace.
Training support is financial support for a person with a disability undergoing a period of assessment, work experience, training or education as part of their plan to gain open employment.
Benefits while working
The income a person earns from their job can affect their benefit amount. The Work and Income department may grant an exemption for severe disablement.
Supported Living Payment
Supported Living Payment is help for people who have, or are caring for someone with, a health condition, injury or disability. You may be able to get the Supported Living Payment if you are:
- Permanently and severely limited in your ability to work because of a health condition, injury or disability.
- Totally blind.
- Caring full-time for someone who would otherwise need hospital-level or residential care who is not your husband, wife, or partner.
Sustainable employment trial
If you receive the Supported Living Payment and would like to see how you feel going back to work you can try it out through a sustainable employment trial. You can work 15 hours a week for half a year to test how you feel and you don't lose any of your benefits.
Employment Transition Grant
This is a weekly payment which helps some people who have completed a sustainable employment trial.
Work Bonus is an incentive payment available if you choose to work even though you don't have work obligations as a condition of your benefit. You may be able to get Work Bonus if you were getting a Supported Living Payment because of poor health, an injury or disability.
If you (or a child you are caring for) has a disability, you may be able to get the Disability Allowance. This helps with the extra costs people have because of a disability, e.g. regular visits to the doctor, medicines, extra heating, special food or travel.
Support to find work
There are a number of supported employment agencies across New Zealand who help disabled people find employment.
Workbridge — supported employment and government funding agency
Workbridge is the largest supported employment agency in New Zealand that gives employers access to a wide talent pool of people with a disability, injury or illness. They can help you develop job searching skills and find the most suitable employment for you.
New Zealand Disability Support Network (NZDSN)
The NZDSN lists other supported employment agencies which you can search by region or by disability. They can help put you in touch with an agency in your area.
Workwise — for people with experience of mental illness
Workwise is an employment agency for people with experience of mental illness or addiction. It has several offices in the North Island, and one in Christchurch.
Other support available
National disability providers with employment services
CCS Disability Action, The Blind Foundation, Deaf Aotearoa and IDEA Services also provide employment support services.
If you are a veteran with an illness or disability
If you have served in the New Zealand Armed Forces and need help to find or stay in work, you may be able to get vocational rehabilitation through Veterans’ Affairs. Visit the Veterans’ Affairs website for more information.
Employment for disabled people
Visit the Employment New Zealand website, which has information for disabled job seekers, employees and their employers. Topics include:
- The benefits of being a disability confident organisation.
- How to communicate more effectively with disabled people.
- Hiring disabled people.
- Keeping disabled employees.
- Financial help for disabled jobseekers, employees and their employers.
- Resources and government support for disabled employees and jobseekers.
Employer Advice Line
If you have disabled staff or staff with a health condition, including mental health, you can get advice on how to support them.
Mindful Employer NZ
Mindful Employer NZ is a programme to support employers and raise awareness and understanding of mental health issues in the workplace. It’s being piloted in the Waikato region, initially.
Lead Toolkit - a guide for employing disabled people
Download this toolkit from the Ministry of Social Development which covers all aspects of employing staff with disabilities - from recruitment to supporting them in their role.
Find a support service near you which can help with a return to work.