Supported wage system
The supported wage system (SWS) is a government initiative which promotes employment of people who are unable to work to full capacity due to a disability.
An employee who is eligible for the supported wage under the terms of the relevant industrial instrument, must be assessed as being unable to perform the full range of duties to the competence level required by the relevant classification.
This assessment must be performed by a qualified and approved assessor, who is a person accredited by the government to assess the effects of an employee’s disability on their capacity to perform the requirements of the role. An employee who is eligible for the SWS must also meet the impairment criteria for receipt of the Disability Support Pension. An eligible employee must be covered by an award or agreement that contains SWS provisions, or falls under the terms of a legislative provision which permits this. In addition, the job being offered must be for at least eight hours per week, and the employee must be an Australian citizen or an Australian resident with permission to work in Australia on an ongoing basis, and be at least 15 years of age.
The SWS will not apply to existing employees who have a current workers’ compensation claim against the employer or a provision of the relevant award which relates to the rehabilitation of employees who are injured in the course of their employment.
Before employment commences, the employer should lodge an application form online via the JobAccess website at www.jobaccess.gov.au. The Department of Social Services Assessment Team (DSSAT) will then process the application by confirming that the employee meets the impairment criteria checking that the other eligibility criteria have been met, and recording the application as having been approved.
An employer wishing to employ someone under the provisions of the SWS must take all reasonable steps to accommodate for the employee’s reduced capacity. This may include the alteration of duties, working hours, work organisation and level of support and/or supervision where possible.
Supported wage rates
Most employees who are eligible for the SWS will receive the applicable percentage of the relevant award-derived minimum wage, provided that the minimum amount payable is not less than $86 per week, according to the following table:
|Assessed Capacity||Relevant Minimum Wage|
Where an employee is working less than full time hours, this minimum wage will be payable on a pro-rata basis. The relevant minimum wage can be established via the wages clause and classifications schedule of the applicable modern award.
Note that the assessed percentages in the table above apply to the relevant minimum wage only. All other terms and conditions of employment will be applicable as per the body of the relevant award.
SWS employees employed under the Supported Employment Services Award 2010, however, are assessed and paid in accordance with Schedule D of that Award.
Assessment of capacity
Once the DSSAT have advised the employer of their approval to apply the SWS, they will select an SWS assessor to undertake the wage assessment for individual employees.
In order to determine the appropriate percentage to apply to the award minimum wage rate, the productive capacity of the employee will be assessed in accordance with the SWS scale by the approved assessor. This will follow consultation with the employer and employee and, if the employee wishes, a union which the employee is eligible to join. Assessments must be documented in an SWS wage assessment agreement and kept on file by the employer as part of the employee’s records in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).
An employer may employ a person under the SWS for a trial period of no longer than 12 weeks unless additional work adjustment time is required, in which case this period can be extended by no more than 4 weeks. A trial period is intended to assess the capacity of an employee as well as the correct percentage of the relevant minimum wage for the purpose of ongoing employment.
At the commencement of the trial period the employer and employee will negotiate a trial wage based on expected productivity levels, which cannot fall below the minimum of $86 per week. During this period the employee will be subject to training or an induction if required for the role. Following completion of the trial, a further contract of employment will be entered into based on the employee’s assessed capacity where the employment is to be ongoing.
Upon commencement, Centrelink will need to be advised of the SWS employee’s wage, as well as any subsequent wage adjustments, within 14 days as the employee’s earnings may affect the rate of the Disability Support Pension they are entitled to. Visit the Department of Human Services website for more information.
Lodging an SWS wage assessment agreement
Once all required assessments have been documented in an SWS wage assessment agreement, including the appropriate percentage of the relevant minimum wage to be paid to the employee, this must be signed by all employee and employer parties to the agreement and lodged by the employer to the Fair Work Commission (FWC).
Where a union is not party to the assessment but has an interest in the award, the FWC will provide the union with a copy of the assessment via certified mail and the agreement will take effect within 10 working days unless an objection is lodged with the FWC.
The assessment will be subject to annual or more frequent reviews (provided there has been a reasonable request for such a review). The review process will be in accordance with the procedure for assessing an employee’s capacity under the SWS.
For further information employers can contact the DSSAT in their state on 1800 065 123 or visit the following websites:
If you are considering employing an employee under the supported wage system, for further assistance call CCI’s Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660 or email email@example.com.