ADVOCATES for the disabled won a victory last week as the Council of Ministers passed a sweeping expansion of the workplace rights of the disabled, though some observers say the implementation of the new legislation remains a daunting challenge.
In a sub-decree passed on Friday, the Council of Ministers established a 2 percent quota for the hiring of disabled workers at public institutions. Quotas for the private sector have been set at 1 percent.
Council of Minister spokesman Phay Siphan said the sub-decree would go into effect in three years, with employers expected to meet 30 percent of their quotas in the interim. A statement from the Council said the subdecree was intended to “help disabled people improve the lives of their families and the nation”.
Mark Morrison, disability adviser for Handicap International Belgium, said his organisation was pleased with the dialogue the government had maintained with civil society groups during the development of the disability legislation. He emphasised the importance of “systematic monitoring of all public and private employers which are covered in the law” as the government moves forward with implementing the sub-decree.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, said the government would need to consider exceptions to the quotas.
“I don’t want to be a critic, but look at the garment industry – there are no disabled workers there,” Chea Mony said.
Sung Bonna, president of Bonna Realty Group, said he was prepared to comply with the quota system, but that all potential BRG employees must possess “the quality and experience needed by the company”.
Morrison said renovations to ensure full compliance with the sub-decree would be a “significant expense” for many organisations, including even Handicap International Belgium.
“We do not have an elevator or lift in our building,” Morrison said. “We need to improve, because it’s a basic right of all persons to be able to participate in a working environment.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE