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Lessons for the post-COVID workplace – how employers can better support parents, carers and workers with disability

The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded existing inequalities facing parents, carers and workers with disability. But new research from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission shows this period provides important lessons for employers on how to create more inclusive workplaces.

27 August 2021

Drawing on a survey of 1500 Victorians and targeted follow up interviews, the Commission’s two new research snapshots – on supporting workers with disability and juggling parenting, caring and work during the pandemic – show that parents, carers and workers with disability have felt stretched, stressed and concerned about financial security and mental health throughout the pandemic.

Workers with disability said they felt more isolated than before the pandemic and more than half reported increased financial stress. Two-thirds of parents and carers had to make trade-offs to keep up with their work commitments, such as spending less time with their children or relying more on partners and family members.

“As we’ve seen during the recent Victorian lockdowns, flexible work has been a vital option for parents, carers and workers with disability,” says Simone Cusack, Director of Policy and Research at the Commission. ” Employers that embed flexible work as part of their organisation’s business-as-usual approach are well placed to advance workplace equality and eliminate discrimination experienced by workers with disability.”

High numbers of working parents and carers and workers with disability reported positive experiences of working flexibly, including being more productive at work. However, both groups were more likely than other workers to be denied flexible working arrangements by their employer.

“What comes through strongly in this research is the need for greater education, but the issue is two-fold,” says Ms Cusack. “On one hand, we need to empower all workers to exercise their rights, particularly workers with disability seeking reasonable adjustments; and on the other hand, we need to help employers to understand their responsibilities and comply with their legal obligations.”

“This period has impacted the working lives of many Victorians, but it has also shown us that we can embed flexibility in the way we work – with real benefits for workers and employers. This research makes clear that workplace equality is a crucial foundation for our state’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In addition to the research snapshots on disability and parents and carers, the Commission has previously released research findings on advancing gender equality during the pandemic and rebuilding flexible workplaces.

Snapshot: Supporting workers with disability

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The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges that we work on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We also work remotely and serve communities on the lands of other Traditional Custodians.

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