How can companies adapt to include disability at work?

26 Oct 2020

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Since 10 July 1987, the law has been tightened to facilitate access to employment, job retention and professional development for people with disabilities within companies. Many companies are nevertheless questioning this issue. What does the law say about the inclusion of people with disabilities in companies? What is the current situation of people with disabilities with regard to employment? What are their obstacles to employment? How can a person with a disability be integrated into a company? You will know everything after reading these few lines.

What does the law on the inclusion of people with disabilities in companies say?

The law of 10 July 1987 contains several provisions in favour of the employment of disabled persons. It determines the conditions under which companies may be obliged to employ disabled workers. Indeed, since that date, any company with more than 20 employees must employ at least 6% disabled people. The law of 11 February 2005, which is part of the compulsory annual negotiation (NAO), has reinforced these measures: it stipulates that people with disabilities must be treated in the same way as non-disabled people, under penalty of sanctions.

Thus, no decision should be taken on the basis of a disability or a state of health, as this could lead to criminal sanctions. If the hiring of disabled workers in the company is not respected, the law provides for a contribution of between 400 and 600 times the hourly minimum wage per missing beneficiary. The provisions laid down by the law are not limited to the simple hiring of disabled people: they also order the continued employment of any person who is unfit (or even at risk of being unfit) for his or her job, by taking all the necessary measures to meet the needs of the worker (adaptation of the job, company premises, etc.).

An update on the situation of disability and employment

Disability is a term that encompasses many disabilities. These are not always visible. Wheelchairs, for example, only affect 2% of people with disabilities. A disabled worker can suffer from visual, hearing, mental, physical or disabling illnesses. Finally, a disability can be temporary, permanent or sudden. Disability at work is somewhat different from disability in the broad sense. In this context, it refers to the impossibility or difficulty for a person to perform all the tasks entrusted to him or her at work, due to a health problem. The assessment of the status of a disabled worker is the responsibility of the Departmental House for People with Disabilities (MDPH) and the Commission for the Rights and Autonomy of People with Disabilities (CDAPH).

Persons with disabilities have difficulty finding and keeping a job. The unemployment rate for workers with disabilities was 19% in 2017, twice as high as that of the working population. 500,000 people on compulsory employment schemes are currently looking for work, including ⅔ for more than a year. It is important to be aware of this information and to take it into account in order to enable people with disabilities to access employment easily and sustainably.

What are the barriers to employment for disabled workers?

Disabled workers have a restriction of fitness noted by an occupational physician. The unfitness may be partial or total (unfit for the job or a function). There are many solutions for integrating disability in companies; however, people with disabilities suffer from difficult access to employment for several reasons.

  • These people sometimes have fewer professional qualifications and can only perform limited tasks.
  • They are not always mobile and find it difficult to get to their workplace.
  • Despite the law and a change in attitudes in recent years, discrimination persists, and employers are reluctant to employ persons with disabilities.
  • Some companies do not have facilities to facilitate access and movement for persons with disabilities, so they cannot work under good conditions.

How can disability be integrated into companies?

As you can see from the figures and information cited above, mainstreaming disability in companies is a necessity. It is also advantageous for employers. Employers, who are subject to the obligation to employ disabled workers, also benefit from conditional financial aid when they recruit disabled workers. This aid is granted by Agefiph, AETH, Pôle Emploi and the Cap Emploi scheme. They aim to help employers facilitate the integration of disabled workers and offer them adequate working conditions. There are several solutions to facilitate the integration of people with disabilities into the world of work:

  • Informing company managers and their employees in order to raise their awareness and combat more effectively the stereotypes surrounding the employment of disabled workers. This can be done by organising meetings or workshops.
  • Train teams with short training courses or executive education.
  • Involving associations to explain disability and raise awareness among workers without disabilities.
  • Arrange companies to offer easy access and a working environment adapted to people with disabilities.

Beyond being compulsory, hiring disabled workers in companies sends a strong message to the company's employees, staff and customers.