Network F Supporting the adaptability of firms and employees to structural economic changes and the use of information technology and other new technologies.
Project name Telework – Combating Inequality and Discrimination on the Labour Market
Project number F0007

Project description

The objective of the Development Partnership is to improve competitiveness of small and medium enterprises and help them to keep employees with motor disabilities by the introduction and promotion of tele-working arrangements. Tele-working is capable of modernizing the enterprise, improving its competitiveness, reducing employers' fixed costs, as well as the costs of training and induction of employees. The Programme is also intended to establish an efficient continuing development system for both employees and employers, which will help to adjust employees' qualifications to the market requirements.

A survey of small and medium enterprise owners from Zachodniopomorskie Region has revealed that 50% of them are pessimistic about growth opportunities for their companies, which face tough competition in Poland and elsewhere in Europe. They have to cut the costs, mainly by laying-off workers who are unable to meet the requirements of the open labour markets. According to the surveyed or interviewed owners of small and medium enterprises from the Zachodniopomorskie Region, including protected labour companies, at least 50% of 660 employees with motor disabilities are in danger of redundancy. Since the surveys revealed that individuals with motor disabilities account for the largest percentage (almost 25%) of the disabled workers, the Development Partnership decided to bring its focus into this group of disabled employees. The unequal opportunities of disabled workers are mainly affected by the following factors: poor vocational skills and a lack of previous employment history, a difficult access to training they need, physical barriers and a lack of access to the modern information and communication infrastructure. Therefore, it is vital to establish flexible ITC technology-based working environments and provide access to necessary training, so that workers with motor disabilities are able to compete in the open labour market. According to available previous experience, redundant workers with motor disabilities are unlikely to find a new job and tend to join the group of permanently jobless people. In the Zachodniopomorskie Region, as little as 14,3% of the disabled have a job, while available surveys indicate that integration of the disabled is much less costly than the payment of welfare benefits. Taking advantage of new opportunities offered by tele-working arrangements is a chance to reverse these alarming trends.

The pilot project to be implemented in Zachodniopomorskie Region and the city of Piła is targeted at two groups of beneficiaries: 20 small and medium enterprises and a group of workers with motor disabilities (a total of 100 individuals in danger of redundancy and the unemployed). The proposed model will involve the creation of one tele-centre and six tele-cabins, i.e. places with fully equipped computer desks, where the disabled workers are able to fulfill their professional obligations (out of company premises) and attend training events. Under effective tele-working arrangements, wheelchair workers are highly valued employees rather than a burden to the employers. By leaving the circle of isolation they gain an opportunity for self-fulfillment and independence. Project beneficiaries, including the employers, are involved in the operations of Counseling/Training Centre. In addition to training in IT basics, accounting or business correspondence, the continuing development curriculum of the Centre will include teleworking issues: its legislative framework, business and social aspects. The training programme will also involve the appointment of National Tele-working Trainers' Team responsible for delivery of training courses, training events, conferences and promotion of tele-working arrangements. The system of continuing development tailored to beneficiaries' needs will help the disabled workers from the sector of small and medium enterprises to face the competition on the evolving and competitive market. A tele-working portal will be established under the Project to facilitate information sharing by the beneficiaries and all those expressing interest in these issues. The dissemination of Project outcomes among the employers, the disabled and local and central authorities will constitute an integral part of the Project. Promotional activities will be delivered in parallel to other operations under the Project to promote the proved tele-working model and idea of continuing development, thus contributing to an improvement in competitiveness of enterprises and individuals with motor disabilities. The new model of tele-working arrangements - involving entrepreneurs, workers, continuing development systems, infrastructure and a team of advisers and trainers - will be ready for reproducing in other regions of Poland. It will be important to ensure multi-directional dissemination of information to the interested parties: through Project participants themselves, using Internet portal, articles published in mass media, conferences and newsletters. Tele-working arrangements will be also promoted during the meetings and consultations with employers' organisations, labour offices and the authorities. The Flexible Employment Vortal was already established in collaboration with several partnerships. This news service will provide various target groups with comprehensive information about flexible employment arrangements. The elaboration of a draft law on all aspects of tele-working in Poland will be an important part of Partnership's efforts.