Staff with Disabilities and their Managers Guidelines


These guidelines apply to all staff at the University


The University is committed to equitable employment for staff with disabilities. It aims to ensure an inclusive and accessible environment that values people from diverse backgrounds.

These guidelines support the Staff with Disabilities Policy


The organisation’s productivity, social, creative and intellectual life benefits by recruiting from the widest pool of talent. The aging workforce is likely to increase the number of highly skilled current and future employees who have varying degrees of disability and impairment. It is in the best interest of employees and the organisation to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities.


People may have a disability when they apply for a job or develop a disability after appointment. The disability may change in severity and be temporary or permanent.


How can managers support staff with disabilities?

  • Promoting an inclusive culture
  • Avoiding discrimination
  • Providing “reasonable accommodation" of disabilities
  • Providing appropriate equipment and training

Employing people with disabilities and impairments

  • Recruitment
  • Appointments


  • 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

  • An inclusive workplace culture is one that eliminates barriers to full participation by providing an environment that cultivates respect, equity, and positive recognition of differences
  • Spaces, facilities, communications, decision-making, services and resources are accessible to range of people with and without disabilities
  • Core values of inclusivity can include:
    • Representation: The presence of people with disabilities across a range of employee roles, and leadership positions
    • Receptivity: Respect for differences in working styles, and flexibility in tailoring positions to the strengths and abilities of employees
    • Fairness: Equitable access to all resources, opportunities, networks, and decision-making processes
    • An inclusive culture is one where staff and students will feel comfortable about disclosing disabilities and impairments
    • Sometimes referred to as “Universal Design” practices that enable full participation can include :
    • Routinely providing manuals, materials, and forms to all employees in a variety of digital formats that are as readily accessible to people who use adaptive computer technologies as to other employees
    • Building workspaces accessible to people who use wheelchairs or other assistive devices, as well as to all other employees
    • Providing employees with a variety of flexible schedule and work options. This allows employees who have energy or functionality limitations to organise their time and strengths. And, all employees are better able to manage time and life/work balance
  • What is an Inclusive Culture? Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University


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. “It arises with practices that are fair in form and intention but discriminatory in impact and action” (QUT Staff with Disabilities-Guidelines for Managers and Supervisors page 10)
  • An example would be 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


Providing “reasonable accommodation “of disabilities

  • The Human Rights Act 1993 requires”reasonable accommodation” of people’s disabilities. This entails a common sense approach to workplace modifications that fit with the needs of the staff member and the needs of the University
  • Much of this support will involve minor adaptation to standard work practices such as ensuring a person with a visual impairment has a well-lit office
  • See Staff with disabilities and impairments for more information on types of accommodations, definition of ‘reasonable’, funding options on how to implement reasonable accommodations during the recruitment process.


Employing people with disabilities and impairments


  • Staff involved with recruitment and appointment can ensure that people with disabilities have equitable access to employment by checking that the digital format in advertisements is suitable for adaptive technology
  • Job descriptions should be examined to ensure there are no requirements which are not essential or desirable to job performance
  • Training and advice for members of selection panels - on awareness of relevant disability issues relating to recruitment and selection - processes is available from the Equity Office.
  • The Merit Relative to Opportunity Policy and Guidelines provide advice on assessing a candidate’s performance where there may be career gaps or periods of reduced productivity due to disabilities
  • When appropriate you should organise whanau interviews and ensure measures been taken to make the interviews disability accessible
  • 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.
  • Induction plans for new staff can include workplace assessments and if necessary, advice from external specialist agencies. -
  • Applicants, employees and managers should feel free to contact Human Resources or the Equity Office for advice: Cathie Walsh, Staff Equity Manager - ext 87844, email


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 “Merit Relative to Opportunity”?

  • The Merit 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:

Disability or impairment refers to total or partial loss of bodily functions. It includes people who are blind or deaf; with hearing or vision impairments; with impairment due to head injury, medical conditions or mental health conditions; with physical or mobility impairments, learning disabilities and staff with speech impairments. Many disabilities and impairments will be invisible

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries

Key relevant documents

Include the following:

  • UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Human Rights Act 1993
  • Employment Relations Act 2000

Document management and control

Owner: Pro Vice-Chancellor, Equity

Content manager: Director Staff Equity

Date reviewed: 10 July 2015

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 Office website.