Currently there are over 20,000 people with disability in Australia who are employed by Australian Disabilty Enterprises (ADE) previously called "Sheltered Workshops".  The majority of these people do not receive equal pay for work of equal value, or have access to the same industrial protections as workers without disability doing the same job at the same statutory pay grade (‘Award’).  This is because they are subject to the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) that unfairly discounts their wages. The BSWAT mainly affects employees with intellectual disability who make up over 75% of the ADE workforce. 


17 February 2015: Update on Variation of Supported Employment Services Award 
United Voice, Health Services Union and National Peak Disability and Advocacy Organisations — Communique, Tuesday, 17 February 2015 Variation of Supported Employment Servces award. 
On 23rd December 2013, United Voice and the Health Services Union made a joint application to the Fair Work Commission to vary the Supported Employment Services Award 2010.This Award covers employees with disability working in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs, formerly known as Sheltered Workshops). The application was made following the decision by the Full Federal Court in Nojin v Commonwealth which found that the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool used to determine wages unfairly discriminated against workers with intellectual disability. The application also seeks to deal with the extent to which other Wage Assessment Tools listed in the Award are discriminatory against workers with disabilities. 

On 20 June 2014 the full bench of the Fair Work Commission decided that in an effort to find a solution that there be a Conference of the parties led by Deputy President Booth. 
There has been a series of meetings held at the Fair Work Commission since 1 September 2014. Conference proceedings are conducted as a confidential process and without prejudice basis.

On 16 February 2015 the parties agreed to conduct a study using the Supported Wage System with modification in a sample of ADEs. This will consider the impact of using historical productivity data on the productivity wage assessment rates of workers with disability. The parties will discuss the results of this study at the next scheduled meeting on Monday 27 April 2015

National Peak Disaiblity and Advocacy Groups supporting the joint application and parties at the conference include - AED legal centre; Inclusion Australia (formely the National Council on Intellectual Disability); and People With Disability Australia. 

25 November: Joint Media Release: National Peak Disability and Advocacy Organisations applaud Senate Vote to Block BSWAT Payment Scheme Bill 2014
In blocking the Bill, the Senate has shown support for the human rights of people with disability to seek fair and full compensation for lost wages through the Federal Court.
Click here to read more

Greens Deputy Leader and Member for Melbourne Adam Bandt MP Parliamentary Speech
on the the BSWAT Payment Scheme Bill 2014 and on his website

The rights of these employees to the same employment terms and conditions as employees without disability continues to be unrealised for thousands of workers with disability across Australia.


November 2014 - Disabled workers to benefit after Senate votes against unfair payment scheme Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

August 2014 - Joint Media Release: Disability advocates call on Senate to stop Bill stripping wages from workers with intellectual disability

August 2014 - Senate Community Affairs Committee tabled in Parliament the Report on the BSWAT Payment Scheme Bill

August 2014 - Minister Fifield must reward genuine effort not failure Inclusion Australia

August 2014 - Real Businesses Pay Real Wages Inclusion Australia

July 2014 - Workers with intellectual disabilities class action Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and AED Legal Centre

June 2014 - Government’s payment plan for disabled workers ‘another attack’ on the most vulnerable Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

June 2014 - The Commonwealth Government proposes the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Bill 2014

May 2014 - An open letter to Senator The Hon Mitch Fifield, Assistant Minister for Social Services

April 2014 - Joint media statement on behalf of National peak disability and advocacy groups

April 2014 - Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) grants the Commonwealth and all the Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) who use the BSWAT a temporary exemption to allow the payment of wages to ADE employees, based on assessments already conducted with the BSWAT, for a period of 12 months, subject to conditions.

Feb 2014 - Lawyers win court order to prevent disabled workers being misled about legal rights Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

Feb 2014The Fair Work Commission held a Directions Hearing on 14 February 2014 for the joint application by United Voice and the Health Services Union (HSU) to vary the Supported Employment Services Award (2010).

Feb 2014 - Show Your Support - Wage Justice for Workers with Disability PWDA

Jan 2014 - Maurice Blackburn Lawyers win temporary reprieve on disabled workers court action Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

Jan 2014 - Maurice Blackburn Lawyers lodge an application for court orders to prevent the Federal Government from misleading intellectually disabled employees into signing away their legal rights

Jan 2014 - PWDA Media Release: Economic loss acknowledged but discrimination continues PWDA

Jan 2014 - Australian Government announced intention to establish a payment scheme for supported employees with intellectual disability in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) who previously had their wages assessed under the Business Service Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT)

Dec 2013 - Maurice Blackburn Lawyers lodge a class action discrimination claim seeking to recover all underpayments for the 10,000 affected workers

Sep 2013 - The Australian government made an application to the Australian Human Rights Commission to grant an exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act for a period of 3 years, and permit ADEs to continue to assess and pay wages using the BSWAT.

To read the government’s Exemption Application see

May 2013 - High Court of Australia dismisses the Commonwealth's application to appeal the Federal Court Decision

Dec 2012 - Appeal to the full court of the Federal Court upheld - Nojin v Commonwealth of Australia [2012] FCAFC 192

Federal Court of Australia ruled that the Commonwealth unlawfully discriminated against Mr Nojin and Mr Prior under Section 6 of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992 (Cth) by assessing their wages using the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT)

Notice of application for temporary exemption and Submissions

Sept 2011 - Federal Court rules Prior and Nogin failed to establish they had been discriminated against ABC 

Apr 2011 - Federal Court (Melbourne) hears Nojin and Prior vs Commonwealth of Australia. [2011] FCA 1066

In the Media

Publications, Submissions and Reports

Further Reading