To this day persons with disabilities in the EU are still systematically deprived of their right to work. Only 50,6 % of persons with disabilities are employed. This number does not include persons living in institutions, which means that the real percentage of persons with employment is even lower. This dramatic situation shows how far the EU is from equal treatment in the labour market.
By ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) the EU committed itself to an open, inclusive and accessible labour market. This was nearly 10 years ago.
This week MEP Katrin Langensiepen, who is a member of MHE’s Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing in the European Parliament, presented the first draft of a new report on equal treatment in employment in the EMPL Committee of the European Parliament.
The first draft is the result of a close cooperative work between Katrin Langensiepen and nine different disability-related NGOs and two academics working in the field, Equinet – European Network of Equality Bodies and four organisations working in the field of human rights from a minority background.
Their position is clear: Stronger EU-legislation is urgently needed in order to force Member States to implement their commitments. The horizontal anti-discrimination directive, which has been blocked in Council for more than a decade, has to be adopted and a new strong EU Disability Strategy post 2020 has to be launched.
Their key political demands are:
Phasing out of sheltered workshops that are not in line with the UNCRPD:
In several Member States persons with disabilities are overwhelmingly employed in sheltered workshops, in a segregated environment where they often do not have an employee status, neither labour rights, nor a guaranteed minimum wage. This is a clear violation of the UNCRPD.
Member States have to assess existing sheltered workshops relating to their effectiveness in providing persons with disabilities with skills to gain employment in the open labour market They have to create alternatives where workers are covered by social security, minimum wages and non-discrimination measures.
EU guidelines on reasonable accommodation:
One of the reasons employers often feel reluctant to hire persons with disabilities is a lack of information about what constitutes reasonable accommodation and the fear of high expenses and long, complicated processes for the application of state support.
Clear EU-guidelines should make types of reasonable accommodation and processes more easy and transparent to understand.
Quotas have to be set, maintained and enforced in the Member States. In the case of non-compliance, companies should not only be fined but also be provided with support to hire persons with disabilities (e.g. by voluntary lists of applicants) and elaborate diversity plans.
All new buildings and products (including IT equipment and software) in the EU should systematically be conceived within the logic of universal design. As such they could be used by anyone, regardless of their level of ability or disability.
Persons with disabilities are not one homogeneous mass of people. Depending on gender, age, types of disability, race/ethnic origin or sexual orientation, etc. discrimination can be multi-layered. Member States have to consider this complexity and offer targeted positive action measures to tackle multiple and intersectional disadvantages.
Ensure mutual recognition of disability status:
To this day the definition of “disability” and the related social entitlements and assistance vary from Member State to Member State which entails often insuperable difficulties for persons with disabilities to enjoy their right to free movement in the EU.
We need the definitions to be harmonized in order to ensure the enjoyment of their rights.
Currently there is a considerable lack of data regarding persons with disabilities, which makes it difficult to assess the situation in the Member States. The EU has to invest in the collection of comparable disability-related data, including on employment, disaggregated by gender, age, types of disability, race/ethnic origin, sexual orientation, etc., including persons with disabilities, who have so far been left out of the statistics is urgently needed. Reinforcing the role of Equality Bodies by strengthening the legislation in this regard is critical.
Katrin Langensiepen, vice-chair of the EMPL Committee and the disability intergroup and rapporteur, comments:
“As the only female Member of Parliament with a visible disability I know how discriminatory a job search can be for persons with disabilities. After school one told me working in an institution is my only option. Now I am a Member of the European Parliament. I was lucky, but unfortunately an overwhelming majority of persons with disabilities are facing another reality.
10 years after the ratification of the UN-Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the EU and its Member States are still dramatically failing in meeting their commitments by systematically excluding persons with disabilities from the open labour market.
In order to stop this continuous human rights violation, we need two legislative initiatives. First the Council has unblock the horizontal anti-discrimination directive that pushes Member-States to take action in all areas of life. And secondly we need an an upscaled Post-2020 EU Disability Strategy with focus on intersectional discrimination.
The horizontal anti-discrimination directive has been blocked over a decade in the Council, which is an absolute scandal for a Union that claims being based on the defence of human rights.
Following the motto “nothing about us without us” persons and representative organisations have to be included in the legislative process. This is also what I tried by the cooperative working approach of this draft report.
We need to stop putting persons with disabilities aside in segregated work facilities and fade out sheltered workshops. With universal design, better knowledge, state support for reasonable accommodation and visibility of persons with disabilities “work in diversity” is absolutely possible. It all depends on the political will.”
Autism-Europe, Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Inklusionsfirmen, the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Equinet – European Network of Equality Bodies, European Blind Union, European Disability Forum, European Network on Independent Living, European Union of the Deaf, ILGA-Europe, Inclusion Europe, International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, Mental Health Europe.