Network A Facilitating access and return to the labour market for those who have difficulty in being integrated or reintegrated into a labour market which must be open to everyone.
Project name Promotion and Protection of Equality in Employment for People with Disabilities
Project number A0410

Project description

The objective of the Partnership is to counteract discrimination of the disabled by establishing mechanisms facilitating their entry or re-entry to the labour market that is open for all. In spite of Poland's accession to the European Union and the adoption of EU legislation, the share of disabled person in total employment is unsatisfactory. The declared will to introduce mechanisms for occupational integration and rehabilitation does not improve the situation.

The reasons behind this status were investigated under Activity 1. According to survey results, employers are unaware of disability issues and unwilling to hire disabled people. They believe that the costs of fitting out the workplace and removing architectural barriers for the disabled are incommensurably high in comparison with potential output of such persons. Employers are not aware that workplace fitting out and remuneration are subject to co-financing by National Fund for Rehabilitation of the Disabled. Another barrier identified by the survey is the attitude of co-workers to working with disabled colleagues. Therefore, the Partnership came to the conclusion that building and promoting the culture of equal opportunities for the disabled is the key priority.
Project beneficiaries will include both disabled and non-disabled people. The pilot project will be delivered across Poland in 50 defence and electrical engineering companies from large and small towns. Partnership activities are targeted at trade unions (almost twenty thousand people), managers (board members, recruitment managers - about 1,500 people) and company employees (45,000 of them). Disabled people involved in the Project are members of Clubs for Occupationally Active Disabled Persons operating in 11 towns and cities.

Previous projects for the disabled have been targeted primarily at the disabled. They were offered skill development or retraining courses, motivation training or similar events without taking into account specific employment needs of particular enterprises or sectors. The Partnership feels that cooperation with the employers is the crucial factor. If the disabled are to account for a bigger share of total employment, someone has to hire them. Local units of Trade Union's Organization for the Protection of Equal Opportunities of the Disabled (ZORON) have been established at companies involved in the Project. A previously thoroughly trained full-time trade union activist will investigate mechanisms, events and barriers that adversely affect the hiring of disabled workers in his/her enterprise. A Report on Equal Opportunities of the Disabled will be based on these investigations. The report will include information about architectural barriers and attitudes of the management and workers. A corporate programme for promotion and protection of employment equal opportunities of the disabled is to be prepared on the basis of the report. Subsequently, a ZORON activist will coordinate measures intended to change co-workers' attitudes. The initiatives will promote the idea of a labour market that is open for all, the awareness of human rights and equal opportunities of all citizens and the prohibition of any discrimination (including indirect one). Furthermore, an institution protecting the employees with concealed or occupational disabilities against lay-offs. The managers will be provided with events intended to increase their awareness of social responsibility in business and benefits from hiring the disabled, including direct co-financing benefits and indirect ones, such as improvements in corporate image.

The clubs of disabled persons will lobby for removing labour market access barriers and introduction of equal opportunity mechanisms. In addition, they will assess club members in terms of their vocational predispositions and survey labour market demand for specific trades, so that the disabled will be able to acquire new skills and qualifications. This will help to dispel common believes that the disabled are poorly skilled people with demanding attitudes. Jobs Promotion and Protection of Equality in Employment seekers will meet at the clubs, sharing experience and encouraging themselves to continuing efforts.

The outcome of the Partnership will be an enhanced awareness of existing prejudice and stereotypes that prevent labour market access to the disabled, as well as measures to improve their status. In response to Partnership's initiatives, the staff of business entities will sign consciously the "Agreement on Equal Employment Opportunities of the Disabled" as a declaration of will to change the existing status.

The Partnership will use the experience of foreign partners who successfully promote the idea of removing employment barriers encountered by disabled people. Good practice worked out during the Project will be disseminated at conferences and seminars. The Partnership is willing to explain to local authorities, employers' associations and labour offices that the problem of employment discrimination of the disabled is associated with huge social costs arising from payment of disability benefits. Therefore, no efforts should be spared to ensure occupational integration of the disabled and to create new jobs.