Many people with disabilities still face barriers when it comes to access to employment. Reasons, why people with disabilities are excluded from employment opportunities, can include some of the following factors:
To address barriers that people with disabilities experience in the workplace, the Minister of Labour has approved a Code of Good Practice on the Employment of People with Disabilities in terms of the Employment Equity Act, 1998.
Aim of the code
The Code is a guide for employers and workers to encourage equal opportunities and fair treatment of people with disabilities as required by the Act.
The Code is intended to educate and inform employers and workers to understand their rights and obligations to promote certainty and to reduce disputes so that people with disabilities can effectively enjoy and exercise their rights at work.
The Code is intended to help create awareness of the contributions people with disabilities can make and to encourage employers to fully use the skills of such people.
Definition of "People with Disabilities"
In terms of the Act, the focus is on the effect of a disability on the person concerning the working environment, and not on the diagnosis or the impairment.
People are considered as "People with Disabilities" if they meet the following criteria:
Employers must reasonably accommodate the needs of people with disabilities
Employers should adopt the most cost-effective means that’s consistent with effectively removing the barriers to perform the job and to enjoy equal access to the benefits and opportunities of employment.
Recruitment and selection of people with disabilities
Employers should make job advertisements accessible to people with disabilities by identifying the inherent requirements of the post, clearly describing the skills and capabilities required and setting reasonable criteria for selection.
Medical and psychological testing
Tests should comply with the requirements of the Act and must be relevant and appropriate to the work for which the person is being tested. Employers should ensure that tests don’t unfairly exclude conditions and shouldn’t be biased on how or when they’re applied, assessed or interpreted.
Testing to determine the health status of a person should only be carried out after the employer has established that the person is in fact competent to perform the essential job functions or duties and after a job offer has been made.
Training and career advancement
People with disabilities should be consulted on their career advancement and possible needs and so facilities and materials for training should be accessible to them. Evaluation of work performance should clearly identify and fairly measure and reward the performance of the essential functions of the job.
Retaining people with disabilities
Workers who become disabled during employment should, where reasonably possible, be re-integrated into the workforce. If reasonable, employers should explore the possibility of offering alternative work, reduced work or flexible work placement, so that workers aren’t compelled or encouraged to terminate their employment.
Compensation for people with disabilities
When workers become disabled because of work-related illnesses or accidents, the employer should assist that worker to receive the relevant assistance in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act from the Compensation Fund and to receive the appropriate benefits in terms of the Unemployment Insurance Act.
Employers must protect the confidentiality of information that has been disclosed by a worker or job applicant with a disability. They must take care to keep records of private information relating to the disability confidential and separate from general personal records.
Employers may not disclose any information relating to a person's disability without the written consent of the person concerned, unless required to do so by law.
Benefits for staff members
Employers who provide or arrange for occupational insurance or other benefit plans for workers must ensure that the benefits don’t unfairly discriminate, either directly or indirectly against people with disabilities.
Employment equity planning
If people with disabilities are under-represented in all occupational levels and categories in the workplace, the employer should seek guidance from organisations that represent people with disabilities or relevant experts, for example in vocational rehabilitation and occupational therapy to bring those vacancies to the attention of possible work seekers with disabilities.
Education and awareness
Employers, employer organisations and trade unions should include the Code in orientation, education and training programmes of workers.
For more information consult the Employment Equity Act, 1998 and the Code of Good Practice on the Employment of People with Disabilities on the website of the Department of Labour at www.labour.gov.za or contact the CCMA helpline at 0861 161616 or the nearest office of the Department of Labour.