A couple of days ago, the world celebrated International Day of People with Disabilities.
Whilst this is a very special day dedicated to celebrate people’s resilience, it is also a day during which we raise much needed awareness about the hardships that people with disabilities still face.
Unfortunately, even in this day and age, the obstacles that people with disabilities face are huge. From people’s attitudes, to lack of public education, from lack of emotional support for families and carers, to having to depend on charitable contributions to be granted what is essentially their right.
As a profession, I specialise in employment law; I deal with employer/employee legalities all day, and whilst I welcomed the new budgetary measure enforcing a 1967 law to encourage companies to employ persons with a disability, I’m afraid it will not work.
The 1967 law stipulates that 2% of the workforce is to be made up of persons with a disability. Employers who refuse to abide by the law have to pay a yearly fee of €2,400 up to €10,000. Income from this fee will go towards a fund for persons with disability. My concern is that the fine will not equate to inclusion at the place of work and there are still a number of issues which need to be discussed and a fair solution needs to be found.
During an event I attended to commemorate World Disability Day, I learnt more about the various organisations, starting from Inspire, to the Lino Spiteri Foundation and Empower, that provide employers and potential employees with different services and support, to help people with disabilities join the workforce. Because I believe that people with disabilities have the right to gainful employment, and that as a society, we are all responsible to make this happen, I will make it my mission to assist my clients with all they need to make this happen.
There’s also another thing that employers need to be aware of – Discrimination by association. Everybody is aware that discriminating against someone because of their disability is wrong and falls foul of the lawl, but the landmark case of Coleman Vs Attridge in 2008, made it ample clear that discriminating against someone because of their commitments towards a disabled relative or dependant is also catered for in the law.
People with disabilities don’t want a hand out, they just want a hand… join me in reaching out with both hands.