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Inclusive Workplace Award

Inclusive Workplace Ministry of Social Development

More than half of working-age New Zealanders who receive a benefit have a disability, so the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is committed to leading the way for inclusiveness by shining a light on disability responsiveness.


MSD is one of New Zealand’s largest government departments, with more than 9000 staff across 200 locations, and is responsible for overseeing the country’s social welfare system.

Principal Advisor Culture and Inclusion Adrienne Girling says MSD plays a strong role in supporting disabled New Zealanders. “We demonstrate this by leading the way for disability across the Public Service as a whole. It is critical for our success as an organisation and the wider Public Service that we reflect, understand and value the people we serve.”

A collaborative working group led by MSD’s Principal Disability Advisor Anne Hawker with accessibility experts from IT and Communications, and Diversity and Inclusion (People Group) sets the direction for work on accessibility and disability at MSD. The work is primarily split across two programmes. The Accessibility Charter makes information accessible for disabled employees and clients, while the Lead Toolkit increases the employment of disabled people at MSD and across the Public Service.

“There has been a great increase in awareness and visibility of accessibility and disability within MSD. This has brought greater demand for support. Our response had been to increase our resourcing of trained accessibility experts. In one year, MSD expanded our resourcing from one accessibility expert in the IT Web Team to forming a new Accessibility and User Experience Team with five fulltime staff,” says Adrienne.

“The team provides advice and services on accessibility audits and compliance checking, accessibility education and training sessions, accessible web design advice, Web Standards support, and accessibility and procurement guidelines.”

Inclusive Workplace Ministry of Social Development

As part of the Lead Toolkit programme – which focuses on increasing the employment of disabled people –MSD was the first Public Service agency to create a Reasonable Accommodation in Employment policy with supporting guidance for managers and employees. Reasonable accommodation relates to workplace adjustments in the recruitment process and the workplace to ensure a person can participate fully and do their job.

Feedback from an employee who received a reasonable accommodation following a diagnosis of a medical condition that affects her breathing, highlighted the success of the initiative. She said it had “changed her life”.

“I am just so much happier, everyone has noticed.”

Being able to work from home has cut down her commute time and lowered her fatigue from chronic levels to mild, also removing stress. She reports she is 25 to 50 per cent more productive at work.

MSD is also responsible for coordinating the all-of-government management of alternate formats – translating documents into Easy Read, New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), braille, audio and large print. This was particularly relevant for the government’s Covid-19 response, highlighting the importance for all New Zealanders to receive information in a way that is accessible to them.

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