Federal MPs urged to support BSWAT Bill to compensate underpaid workers with intellectual disabilities

19 February 2016
Leading Employment law firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers is urging Federal MPs to back proposed legislative changes that will provide back pay to workers with intellectual disabilities, some of whom were earning as little as 99 cents an hour.

The changes follow an historic agreement Maurice Blackburn reached with the Commonwealth government after protracted litigation in the Federal and High Courts, and following a long running political campaign for wage justice for intellectually disabled workers.

The proposed new law is the result of a settlement agreement between the Federal Government and Maurice Blackburn, which represented 10,000 underpaid workers with intellectual disabilities who were involved in a class action.

The Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Amendment Bill 2016 was introduced to Parliament last week and gives effect to the class action settlement, requiring the Commonwealth to pay to each affected worker 70% of the amount claimed in the class action.

Maurice Blackburn has subsequently written to Federal MP’s asking them to support the BSWAT Bill.

“The compensation that the legislation will provide is an important step forward for workers with intellectual disabilities, many of whom live below the poverty line and recognises  the unlawful discrimination and underpayment they endured,” said Josh Bornstein, employment principal at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

BSWAT is a wage setting device used by Australian Disability Enterprises since 2001 to assess the wages of workers with a disability. The introduction of the mechanism resulted in substantial pay cuts to workers with an intellectual disability with some paid as little as 99 cents an hour.

If the Bill becomes law, Maurice Blackburn and the Commonwealth Government will then seek the Federal Court’s approval of the settlement reached, which is a process required in class action cases.

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