Empowering workers with disability on the EU labour market: legal tools, challenges and best practices.

On the 14-15th of December, the Academy of European Law (ERA) in collaboration with the European Foundation Centre organised their annual conference on rights of persons with disabilities. Judges and lawyers working in the area of anti-discrimination law or employment law, Member State officials, representatives of NGOs, equality bodies and national human rights institutions, disability rights advocates, gathered in Trier (Germany) to discuss employment for people with disabilities.

The event provided an opportunity to identify key international and European policy and legal tools to turn the right to employment of persons with disabilities into a reality.

Simona Giarratano, from the European Disability Forum, after analysing the main points of the art. 27 UN CRPD from a right-based approach, highlighted the links that this article has with art 9 (accessibility), art 12 (legal capacity), art 19 (independent living) etc.

Immaculata Placencia Porrero, from DG Employment, has focused her intervention on the EU strategy for empowering workers with disabilities. She described the mechanisms of the Disability Strategy review and explained how the draft of the Accessibility Act will change the lives of people with disabilities especially as far as the goods and service market are concerned and employment will be one of the first direct consequences.

Anna Lawson, professor of Law from the University of Leeds described the scope of the Employment Equality Directive and tried to determinate the key concepts of: reasonable accommodation and direct and indirect discrimination.

The first part of the second day was dedicated to showcasing how those key notions have been implemented.

Vahé Nafilyan and Rafael Chavez Avila presented two studies, the first carried out by IES for the European Parliament and the second one carried out by CIRIEC for ONCE Foundation. Both studies assessed the cost-benefits for sheltered and supported employment schemes. From one side, the IES’ study describes the existing policies at European level supporting employment for people with disabilities (e.g. sheltered workshops, reasonable accommodation, alternative labour market services, universal Design). From the other side, CIRIEC’s study focuses on the Spanish model of Special Employment Centres and their social economic impact (with the concrete examples of three successful enterprises: Ilunion, Gureak, la Fageda).

After that two examples of regional and national job strategies have been described, one from the Nordic region and another from Germany.

Maria Montefusco explained how the Council of Nordic Cooperation is carrying out its action plan on disability and what challenges it encountered. The conference also provided a forum for exchange on challenges and best practices in the field.

Jorg Brungart described the German system of Supported employment, giving two interesting example of the inclusion of young people with disabilities in to the labour market.

Following with the best practices, Michel Fembeck (who manages the Zero Project, a project whose main aim is to collect the most innovative practices and policies on disability), moderated a panel showing the employers’ point of view. Specifically, Susan Scott Parker highlighted her experience on how to mobilise business behind the economic and social inclusion of people with disabilities worldwide. Stefan Tromel described the business advantages of employing people with disability accordingly to the ILO Global Business and Disability Network which are the basis of a 10 points charter signed already by 11 multinational Companies.

The conference finished with the interventions of Martha Stickings from the Fundamental Rights Agency who focused her speech on EU and national individual petition and complaint mechanism; and Juan Manuel Fernandez Martinez, a Spanish judge and president of the Justice and Disability Forum, who described the role of national judges in ensuring the rights of workers with disabilities.

The EFC, started its collaboration with ERA in 2010, and after 6 years it is still very committed to training legal practitioners on disability law and on the UN CRPD. For the EFC and its Disability Thematic Network, reinforcing the capacity building of legal operator is key, as well as transferring know-how to other foundations, professionals and organisations.


disability press release