This guide is intended to be used in conjunction with the revised Toolkit, Promoting the Right to Work of Persons with Disabilities: A Toolkit for South African Employers. as well as the relevant pieces of legislation namely the Employment Equity Act and the Technical Assistance Guidelines on the Employment of People with Disabilities. It provides easy to navigate and practical advice about disability and employment and is applicable to employers of all sizes and across all sectors. It also provides links to a rich repository of resources available on the worldwide web.
People with disabilities across the world, largely remain marginalised due to stereotyping, traditional beliefs and ignorance. The WHO estimates that 10% of the world’s population consists of people with disabilities, with the majority of these in developing countries. Causes of disability range from accidents, violence and natural birth defects. In developing countries, lack of proper health facilities, inadequate treatment and lack of knowledge exacerbates this problem. People with disabilities find it difficult to find employment or be accepted within society as individuals who are capable of performing work tasks efficiently. This assumption requires a change in perspective, as people with disabilities should be granted the equal opportunity to jobs and fairness. Are we as HR professionals driving the disability agenda? Where is our employment equity focus, and have we covered all areas of compliance? This fact sheet aims to identify challenges and discuss the integration of people with disabilities within the workforce with the guidance and leadership of HR.
The Technical Assistance Guidelines on the Employment of People with Disabilities (TAG) is intended to complement the Code published in August 2002 to assist with the practical implementation of aspects of the Act relating to the employment of people with disabilities in the workplace. It builds on the Code to set out practical guidelines and examples for employers, employees and trade unions on how to promote equality, diversity and fair treatment in employment through the elimination of unfair discrimination. In essence, the TAG should therefore be seen as part of a broader equality agenda for people with disabilities to have their rights recognised in the labour market where they experience high levels of unemployment and often remain in low status jobs or earn lower than average remuneration. This is particularly important since disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the rights of individuals to belong and contribute to the labour market.
It is submitted that from a business perspective compliance with good practice is an indispensable commercial necessity. Compliance with the law should be regarded as a given, however, the judgments that are discussed here indicate that employers are not alive to the statutory requirements of fair labour practice and seemingly oblivious to the financial prejudice of mental illness in the workplace, albeit precipitated due to stress-related illness or otherwise.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa guarantees every citizen the right to equality. It further identifies people with disabilities as one of the groups that were previously most disadvantaged across all spheres of life and therefore key to redress in the transformation of the country. People with disabilities are therefore prime beneficiaries of affirmative action measures including their appointment in the public service. This policy is intended to facilitate this process, and ensures that issues of disability are approached from a Human Rights perspective. Ultimately, the Public Service as a workplace needs to be conducive to people with disabilities.
The article examines and clarifies the legal obligations of labour market (as part of mainstream society) to effectively promote and protect the right to employment for persons with disabilities in South Africa. In this regard, the article contextualises the understanding of disability within an international and national context by outlining the legal obligations of employers under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the South African national legal framework and policy directives pertaining to the right to employment of persons with disabilities. In order to measure the progress in realising the right to work of persons with disabilities, the importance of collecting and maintaining disability data as statistical evidence is highlighted.