The right to work

  1. The right to work

The excerpt from “The Right to Work of Persons with Disabilities – Assistive Technologies in Serbia”[1],by the author Ivanka Jovanović, CEO at National Organisation of Persons with Disabilities of Serbia.

Persons with disabilities participate in working life in different parts of the world in different ways and in different proportion. Due to numerous barriers existing in society, a large number of persons with disabilities willing to work don’t have this opportunity.

For this reason, persons with disabilities fall within the poorest, the least educated and economically the most dependent layers of society and are often faced with various forms of discrimination and human rights violation worldwide. The International Labour Organisation estimates there are approximately 386 million economically active persons with disabilities between 15 and 64 years of age in the world. It is clear that economic growth can lead to an increase in employment and that legal regulations can incite employers to use skills and potentials of persons with disabilities within existing national conditions.

The work is important for everyone, but it has a special significance for persons with disabilities. Through work they earn for their living, establish social contacts and build own self-esteem. By acquiring economic independence, they increase their contribution to national economy, lower state cash benefits on the basis of disability and reduce the degree of poverty in this category of population. Since the right to work is one of the fundamental human rights and belongs to all people, the United Nations adopted various documents stipulating measures necessary for the implementation of the right to work in practice and related rights of persons with disabilities, one of the most marginalised groups on the planet (approximately 650 million persons with some type of disability and roughly 2.5 billion persons who either directly or indirectly feel the effects of disability). Serbia has ratified many documents adopted by the United Nations, the International Labour Organisation, the European Union and regional organisations. Besides, in recent years Serbia has adopted a set of national regulations aimed at reducing discrimination against persons with disabilities in all areas, including the domain of work and employment.

Since February 2003, with the adoption of the Charter of Human and Minority Rights of Serbia and Montenegro, discrimination on the grounds of disability is strictly prohibited in our country. In April 2006, the Law on the Prevention of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities in the Republic of Serbia was adopted. The Republic of Serbia incorporated the provisions on prohibition of discrimination of persons with disabilities into its supreme law – Constitution (Paragraph 3, Article 21), the Labour Law, the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination, and the specific Law on the Prevention of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities contains several provisions on the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of disability in the area of employment and labour relations. Regarding the membership of the Republic of Serbia in the Council of Europe and the process of accession to the European Union, it is significant to refer to adopted regulations and ratified documents but also to familiarise oneself with the documents which will become binding once Serbia becomes a part of the European Union.

The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities in Serbia is extremely low – the research conducted from 2003 to 2011 shows that 13 to 21 percent of persons with disabilities are employed. Since 2003, the efforts to foster the employment of persons with disabilities have been intensified. The prerequisites for fostering the employment of persons with disabilities in Serbia are adequate support services, accessible physical environment, public transport, information and communication, workplaces and inclusive system of education. Numerous regulations enabling these prerequisites have been adopted in recent years.

The Republic of Serbia ratified international instruments providing a legal framework for employment of persons with disabilities: the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention C 159 and Recommendation R168, the International Labour Organisation Rulebook for resolving the issues of employment and work of persons with disabilities, revised European Social Charter.

Main legal prerequisites for increasing the number of employed persons with disabilities and enhancing their status in the domain of employment in Serbia were acquired by adopting the Law on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities in May 2009.

Since the Law was put into force, according to the data from National Employment Service, over 5000 persons with disabilities have been employed throughout the state. Consistent and strict implementation of all provisions of the Law on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities is important for the affirmation of the rule of law principles and promotion of equality of persons with disabilities in Serbia. Implementation of the Law brings significant economic effects and gives the opportunity for employers to find quality employees among persons with disabilities, who can make a valuable contribution to the successful operations of economic entities and public sector. It is necessary that all relevant stakeholders in their respective domains contribute to the implementation of the Law. Government authorities need to work more efficiently on the creation of legal framework for fostering the employment of persons with disabilities as well as on the development of benefit measures for employers hiring persons with disabilities.

National Employment Service has to work much more effectively on connecting supply and demand in the labour market and serve as a link between unemployed persons with disabilities and potential employers, as well as to provide necessary programmes of retraining, additional training and training for persons with disabilities according to employers’ needs.

Organisations of persons with disabilities, led by the National Organisation of Persons with Disabilities of Serbia as the umbrella organisation, have to further promote the Law on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities, more intensively incite their unemployed and capable of work members to report to National Employment Service and actively seek for a job. Moreover, they should be encouraged to contribute to rooting out a legally unsubstantiated fear of persons with disabilities that by being hired they will lose other rights such as care and support benefits. Employers and labour unions should continue with the affirmation of the idea of fostering the employment of persons with disabilities and consistently implement the Law on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities. Media must promote the idea of persons with disabilities as potential employees who can make a significant contribution to creating new values with their knowledge, talent and skills.

The road is long from the normative prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of disability in all aspects of social life, including the domain of employment, to prevention of concrete cases of discrimination in practice and it is a responsibility of all – persons with disabilities themselves, organisations of persons with disabilities, state and all citizens!

The Law on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities as well as the Law on the Prevention of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities can be found in our E-library.

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