With too few employment opportunities for people with disabilities, one has to wonder whether the South African legal framework is failing them.
South Africa has one of the best legal frameworks in the world, but it seems to fail people with disabilities. For example, the Employment Equity Act (EEA) is meant to redress the imbalance of employment of people with disabilities. In its Code of Good Practice Employment Equity, it provides guidelines for employers to assist with Employment Equity Targets. It refers employers to information supplied by Stats SA and the latest national census. It is generally accepted that the Disability Employment Equity target is 7,5 percent.
The EEA also provides guidance on the reasonable accommodation of persons with disabilities in the workplace through its Code of Good Practice on Key Aspects on the Employment of Persons with Disabilities and the Technical Assistance Guide.
However, according to the latest Commission on Employment Equity Report, only one percent of the labour force are persons with disabilities – significantly less than the 7,5 percent target. This has been the position for the last couple of years. So, why is this the case and what should be done about it?
There is a disconnect between business and civil society. Employers have to comply with legislation, but they generally do not refer to the disability organisations with the knowledge and skills to recruit and support persons with disabilities in the workplace. This has resulted in the unsatisfactory employment of persons with disabilities.
There remains a lack of adequate reasonable accommodation, which has tainted the abilities of persons with disabilities in the workplace and often led to the termination of employment. There needs to be conversations between the disability sector and organised businesses in order to effectively achieve the goals set out in the Employment Equity Act.
A good starting point would be a collaboration between the Chambers of Commerce and employer organisations such as the Association of Personnel Services Organisations (APSO). The business imperative to stimulate such discussions is entrenched in our legislative framework and policies.
The BBBEE Scorecard is a compelling mechanism for business to achieve Disability Employment Equity by scoring the six disability bonus points on offer. Employers should have Disability Employment Equity established through their transformation structures at a senior management level.
There should be a disability strategy in place that guides the five-year Employment Equity Plan, which is monitored through their annual Employment Equity Reports. Companies should be leveraging their skills development strategy to provide the necessary training interventions with annual work skills plans and monitoring progress with annual training reports.
The financial benefits include employee tax incentives, tax allowances and grants from the relevant SETA.
Disability organisations should become aware of the needs of employers by offering services, such as consulting on disability strategy and employment; the recruitment of persons with disabilities; assisting with universal design; providing disability awareness and supporting the employee through their initial employment journey.
Bringing about the symbiosis between employers and disabled persons organisations will greatly contribute to achieving Disability Employment Equity in South Africa.
Rustim Ariefdien is a disability expert extraordinaire, who assists businesses to “let the Ability of disAbility enAble their profitAbility” through BBBEE, skills development, employment equity and socio-economic development. He ensures that businesses are able to maximise their points on the BBBEE scorecard and become compliant with legislative requirements as stipulated in the Employment Equity and Skills Development Acts. His purpose is the economic empowerment of persons with disability in Africa. As a person with a disability himself, he has extensive experience in the development and empowerment of persons with disability.