Mainstream Employment Programme

About the Mainstream Employment Programme

The Mainstream Employment Programme provides a package of subsidies, training, and other support to help people with significant disabilities get work and to enable them to gain sustainable employment. By taking part in the Programme, employers are tapping into the benefits of employing someone with a disability and future-proofing their workforce.

We are now accepting applications - please see information about the application process below.

What the Mainstream Employment Programme provides

  • A 100% salary subsidy for the first half of an agreed term of a maximum of 104 weeks/2-years, and 80% of the salary for the second half.
  • Funding for agreed external training for Mainstream participants and their direct supervisors.
  • Funding to meet participants’ agreed adaptive technology or specialised assistance costs.
  • Follow-up support for participants and their direct supervisors.

Who can apply?

People with a significant disability who have been unable to get work can apply. To make sure that the funding is used for the greatest benefit for the most people, we’ll be prioritising applications according to six factors as shown in the table below. A person does not need to be a priority in all six factors to be offered a placement.

Factors to be considered Priority

Youth (aged 18 – 24)

Qualification level

People with higher qualifications particularly those who have recently completed a post-secondary school qualification within the last 2 years (e.g. new graduates, internships)

Previous work history People with less paid work history/experience
Access to other services People who would be less likely to succeed with alternative Work and Income jobseeker services or wage subsidies available to all clients (e.g. Flexi-wage) or supported employment
Sustainability of employment The role is likely to be maintained at the end of the placement or there is a clear plan that shows how the placement will provide a pathway into alternative employment using the skills and knowledge gained
Benefit Status People who are at risk of long-term benefit receipt and for whom the long-term benefit liability is likely to be reduced

To be considered you must also:

  • have a disability that severely restricts and significantly disadvantages your employment prospects, which requires assistance in addition to MSD’s general jobseeker support or wage subsidies
  • have had the disability for a minimum of six months, and expect it to continue for at least four years
  • be 18 years of age or older, and a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident ordinarily resident in New Zealand
  • generally not have been in paid employment for more than 15 hours a week in the previous six months
  • not be receiving weekly compensation under the Accident Compensation Act 2001 or where your rehabilitation is the responsibility of ACC.

How to apply

Supported employment agencies and other agencies can apply on behalf of their clients. Contact your agency to find out about applying for Mainstream.

If you don’t have one, you can find a list of supported employment organisations at the link below, or contact Work and Income.


Mainstream is available in a large range of state sector and private sector businesses and organisations.

If you are an employer and you would like to offer a position to someone with a significant disability, please contact Work and Income. If you don’t already have a suitable person in mind, we’ll put you in touch with supported employment agencies in your area who might have someone who, with the help of the Mainstream Employment Programme, could make a valuable contribution to your organisation. Email us at the address below:


  • Organisations where there is already a Mainstream placement are not ordinarily eligible for a further placement at the same time.
  • Placements in schools must be non-teaching positions (participants cannot work in teacher or teacher aide positions).

Requirements for Mainstream positions

In the past, Mainstream positions were usually created specifically for the participant, additional to the staff establishment and not an existing vacancy.

From 1 July 2014 positions can also be an existing vacancy that has been adapted to the skills and aptitude of the participant and the needs of the employers. Mainstream is considered in these cases if it will address barriers to employment by providing disability related support to build the knowledge and skills of the participant. Generally funding for existing vacancies will be for a maximum of 12 months.

The employer must guarantee that:

  • the Placement is not replacing or displacing someone in existing employment
  • for existing vacancies that the processes for selecting the employee were correctly followed, that the employee was chosen on merit and that no other applicants (where applicable) were disadvantaged by the availability of a subsidy
  • the employee has an employment agreement that is fixed term for the length of the placement for a created position and permanent for an existing vacancy.

Generally positions must be for a minimum of 15 hours per week for the majority of the placement, and a subsidy is provided for up to 40 hours per week.

Supported employment agents

The Mainstream Employment Programme is very popular – so popular we’ve had to stop taking in applications for quite some time. The good news is that we are now accepting applications again.

If you are already registered with Work and Income, you will have received information about our new application process and priorities for placement.

Process changes include:

  • There is a single application form, replacing the eligibility and job proposal processes.
  • Requirements for Mainstream positions have changed
  • Applications are prioritised, and eligibility does not guarantee that a placement and funding will be available Costs for the placement are agreed up front and will include setting a maximum salary subsidy for each year and funding for training and equipment in advance of a placement starting.

To find out more, or to get the new application form, contact us.

Features of the Programme

  • It's a four-way partnership among Work and Income, supported employment or other agencies, employers, and people with disabilities.
  • The specially created or adapted positions are tailored to the skills and aptitude of the participants, and the needs of the employers.
  • Participants are not expected to be 'job-ready' when they start. They are trained on the job and have access to extra training funding from Mainstream.
  • Because Mainstream follows the principles of supported employment, pay is comparable to the pay of others performing similar duties.
  • Knowledge and skills are built up over time, with the support and goodwill of co-workers.
  • After two years, it is expected that participants will be much better equipped to compete for advertised vacancies.
  • Mainstream participants work throughout New Zealand, from large cities like Wellington to small centres like Kaikohe.
  • Mainstream participants work in a large range of state sector and private sector businesses and organisations.
  • Ideally a participant gets the opportunity of continuous employment over the term of the placement, unless they find a suitable permanent position during the term of the placement (e.g. a client works 48 weeks and has 4 weeks' paid leave per annum).

Mainstream Internship Programme

The Mainstream Internship Programme provides a subsidy and other support to enable employers to employ disabled students in short-term internships in their chosen field of study. To apply for the Mainstream Internship Programme, use the application form for the Mainstream Employment Programme. Email us if you need a copy on