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. 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 new application process below.

What the Mainstream Employment Programme provides

  • A 100% salary subsidy for the first year of employment, and 80% of the salary for the second year.
  • 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 consideredPriority

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 (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.  

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.


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.

Supported employment agents

As you know, 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. Although no guarantee of a permanent job is expected, we will be prioritising positions where 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.
  • 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.
  • Positions must be created and are outside of the staff allocation or staff cap ("supernumerary"), and must not replace or displace someone in existing employment.
  • The specially-created 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. 
  • No guarantee of on-going employment is expected but most participants go on to get sustainable employment.
  • 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 two years, 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.