Staff with Disabilities and their Managers Guidelines


These guidelines apply to all staff members at the University.


The University is committed to equitable employment for staff with disabilities. In accordance with the Equity Policy, the University aims to ensure a safe, inclusive and accessible environment that values people from diverse backgrounds.

These guidelines support the Staff with Disabilities Policy and the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Policy.


The organisation’s productivity, social, creative and intellectual life benefits by recruiting from the widest pool of talent. People may have a disability when they apply for a job or acquire a disability after appointment. The disability may change in severity and be temporary or permanent. The aging workforce is also likely to increase the number of highly skilled current and future employees who have varying degrees of disability and impairment.

The University has a responsibility to attract the best possible candidates and to work effectively with all staff members including people with disabilities.


How can managers support staff with disabilities?

  • Promoting an inclusive culture
  • Avoiding discrimination
  • Providing “reasonable accommodation" of disabilities

Employing people with disabilities and impairments

  • Ensuring recruitment and selection best practices
  • Delivering quality induction, training and development
  • Supporting staff in their job


  • What is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
  • What does the Human Rights Act say about disabilities?
  • What does “reasonable accommodation” mean?
  • What is “Merit Relative to Opportunity”?


How can managers support staff with disabilities?

Promoting an inclusive culture

  • Ensure a workplace culture of respect and positive recognition of differences. Particularly important if reasonable accommodations have been made to the position or workplace organisation
  • Providing physical and digital access and universal design principles to all aspects of the working environment
  • Respecting people’s privacy and not asking or sharing personal information about a person’s disability without their consent
  • Providing a culture where staff and students feel comfortable disclosing their disabilities and impairments. Read the Disclosure of information and why we collect data
  • Staff members can at any time update their personal information and make changes to their disability status on the Enterprise Person Registry
  • The Staff with disabilities and impairments webpage provides further information and advice

Avoiding discrimination

  • Direct discrimination occurs when someone with a disability or impairment is treated less favourably than other people may be treated in the same circumstances. It may be unintentional, for example making a well-intentioned but prejudicial assumption about a job applicant’s fitness to perform a role, without requesting factual or medical evidence of their ability
  • Indirect discrimination occurs when a practice may not target people with disabilities but has a disproportionate impact on them. “Indirect discrimination occurs when an apparently neutral job condition or requirement has the effect of excluding some job applicants on one of the grounds prohibited by the Act.”  Human Rights Commission, New Zealand


  • A blanket requirement for employees to have drivers’ licences, irrespective of whether or not driving is an essential competency for their job. This could indirectly discriminate against a person with a disability or impairment who was unable to hold a licence
  • Having stairs as the only access to a workplace. While all employees are being treated the same, people who have mobility impairments may be unable to enter thus are indirectly discriminated against

Providing “reasonable accommodation” of disabilities

  • The Human Rights Act 1993 requires “reasonable accommodation” of people’s disabilities. This entails a common sense approach to providing workplace modifications to the work, work area or equipment that fit with the needs of the staff member and the needs of the University
  • Most accommodations are low or no cost such as flexible work hours, writing clearly and accessibly or will involve minor adaptation to standard work practices such as ensuring a person with a visual impairment has a well-lit office
    Accommodations or Adjustments may be structural, organisational, technological or procedural
  • See Reasonable accommodation for staff with a disability for more information on types of accommodations; definition of “reasonable”; funding options; and how to implement reasonable accommodations during the recruitment process

Employing people with disabilities and impairments


  • Ensure advertisements are accessible and suitable for adaptive technology and allow responses in a variety of formats
  • Job descriptions should be examined to ensure there are no requirements, which are not inherent or essential activities of the job, i.e., the core duties that must be carried out in order to fulfil the purpose of the position. Hiring managers should consider whether the person could perform the essential requirements of the job in a different way with the same outcome or if reasonable accommodations could be made to the work environment
  • Training and advice for members of selection panels on awareness of relevant disability issues relating to recruitment and selection is available from the Equity Office.
  • The Achievement Relative to Opportunity Policy and Procedures and Achievement Relative to Opportunity Guidelines provide advice on assessing a candidate’s performance where there may be career gaps or periods of reduced productivity due to disabilities
  • To ensure fair and equitable recruitment and selection see the Checklist for Employing Staff with Disabilities
  • This includes all aspects of the process; job analysis, selection criteria, selection panel, advertising, shortlisting, interview, testing, referee reports, decision making, planning the start, orientation and follow-up.
  • Any recruitment consultants or agencies used, to be aware of the University’s Staff with Disabilities Policy and that they do not discriminate against applicants with disabilities.
  • See also Accessible University

Delivering quality induction, training and development

  • A quality induction is important for all employees. Any reasonable accommodation required would ideally be identified before the person started working, including making sure the environment was safe and accessible and other colleagues are aware if they will be impacted.
  • The Assistance during an evacuation information provides guidance for staff with disabilities and their colleagues on safely managing emergency evacuations. Staff who may need assistance and support during an emergency evacuation should contact Health Safety and Wellbeing to develop a personal emergency evacuation plan and register their name and location details with the Building Warden.
  • Induction plans for new staff can include workplace assessments and if necessary, advice from external specialist agencies.
  • Assigning a mentor or buddy will assist the staff member with disabilities in the early stages of their employment.
  • Colleagues should be aware of reasonable accommodation they need to make such as providing written information in large print.
  • If unexpected issues concerning accessibility or reasonable accommodation arise, these should be discussed and resolved as soon as possible.
  • Ensure staff members with disabilities have career goals and objectives.
  • Development activities should be fully inclusive.
  • Training, course, and conference venues should be accessible and training material appropriately presented.
  • Wherever possible, trainers will be aware of the needs of staff with disabilities.
  • The Staff with disabilities and impairments webpage and the Checklist for hosting inclusive events provide further information on how to support and work positively with staff with disabilities.

Supporting staff in their job

  • Managing and coaching staff to meet the responsibilities of their job, including objectives and actions within their ADPR and Evolve, is the same as for all employees whether they have a disability or not; some meet expectations, some exceed and others require assistance to meet expectations. However, it is important that staff with disabilities have appropriate career goals and work expectations, that they are appropriately supported to participate in any performance review process and have the necessary workplace accommodations.
  • Workplace accommodations may change over time due to different work requirements or changes in a staff member’s ability or disability. It is therefore important that managers check on all staff members’ needs to determine if they need accommodations to their workplace or working arrangements.
  • The review and appraisal process will not penalise a staff member because they need reasonable accommodations.
  • If a staff member’s performance or behaviour is not of the standard required, discuss any possible explanations. Ask if the working environment is making it difficult to do their job and explore how to overcome any difficulties.
  • Disciplining an employee for a reason related to their disability, e.g., poor attendance or performance will be unlawful unless the process implemented and actions taken are reasonable. Disciplinary measures in these circumstances should only be taken after all possible reasonable accommodations have been made to try to improve their attendance or performance. Advice should be sought in such circumstances before taking any action.
  • Applicants, employees and managers should feel free to contact Guillermo Merelo, Associate Director, Staff Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, HR ( and Shasha Ali, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Experience Lead (


What is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?

  • The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first human rights convention of the twenty first century. New Zealand signed the Convention on 30 March, 2007 “It gives voice, visibility and legitimacy to disabled people and their issues in New Zealand and the rest of the world. It is aimed at protecting the dignity of persons with disabilities and ensuring their equal treatment under the law including the right to health services, education and employment” - Human Rights Commission
  • The convention aims to protect the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of disabled people. The convention gives governments practical information on how to ensure rights for disabled people. This includes guidance on making health, education, and other services accessible, such as by providing mobility aids, helpful technologies and ‘easy read’ information.

What does the Human Rights Act say about disabilities?

  • The Human Rights Act says that it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of disability. It requires “reasonable accommodation” of disabled people’s needs. There are however some exceptions. For further information see here.

What does “reasonable accommodation” mean?

  • This may be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Most adaptations can be made at a modest cost (if any) with little disruption. As a guide, measures to accommodate disabilities that were highly expensive, or require significant disruption to the workplace may not be “reasonable”. Further information is available on Staff with disabilities and impairments

What is “Achievement Relative to Opportunity”?

  • The Achievement Relative to Opportunity Policy and Procedures provides positive acknowledgement of what has been achieved given the opportunities available - in contrast to a ’special consideration’ approach that highlights the negative impact of personal circumstances on performance or expects lesser standards of performance.
  • It re-examines the concept of merit (traditionally derived from a fulltime, uninterrupted, linear career history), and the associated expectations of quantity, rate, consistency and breadth of outputs, and how these productivity factors may be affected by personal circumstances.
  • For example when a Faculty Staffing Committee was assessing a promotions applicant’s productivity, they took into account that she had a car accident the previous year which resulted in several months in hospital and extended sick leave.


The following definitions apply to this document:

Disabilities: Waipapa Taumata Rau defines disability as any physical, psychological, cognitive, or sensory impairment which, in interaction with social and systemic barriers, restricts a person's full and effective participation in university life on an equal basis with others.

Staff member refers to an individual employed by the University on a full or part time basis.

Staff with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.

Universal design means the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialised design. “Universal design” includes assistive devices for particular groups of persons with disabilities where this is needed.

Key relevant documents

Document management and control

Owner: Pro Vice-Chancellor, Equity
Content manager: Director Staff Equity
Date reviewed: August 2018

Further information

More information about the University’s commitment to be a fair and inclusive place to study and work can be found on the Equity at the university website.