Table 9:  Disability and the right to decent work

Examples of Human Rights Violations

  • A person with intellectual disabilities is placed under guardianship, and the guardian does not allow him to be employed.
  • An employer refuses to hire a woman even though she is the best applicant for the job because she had depression in the past.
  • People with intellectual disabilities are ‘employed’ in a workshop where they are given menial tasks to do all day for which they receive ‘pocket money’ at the end of the week.
Human Rights Standards Treaty Body Interpretation
CRPD 27(1) States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities… CRPD: recommending that Spain “develop open and advanced programs to increase employment opportunities for women and men with disabilities.”  CRPD/C/ESP/CO/1 (CRPD, 2011).

CRPD:  recommending that Argentina “develop a public policy to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labour market through, for example, the launch of awareness-raising campaigns targeting the private sector and the public at large which are designed to break down cultural barriers and prejudices against persons with disabilities, the implementation of reasonable adjustments in order to ensure that persons with disabilities in need of such adjustments can participate in the labour market, and the development of training and self-employment programmes. The Committee recommends that the State party reinforce its measures for monitoring and certifying compliance with the employment quota for persons with disabilities in the public sector.” CRPD/C/ARG/CO/1 (CRPD, 2012).

CRPD: recommending that Hungary “effectively implement the disability-specific provisions of the Labour Code and develop programmes to integrate persons with disabilities into the open labour market and the education and professional training systems, and to make all work places and educational and professional training institutions accessible for persons with disabilities.” CRPD/C/HUN/CO/1 (CRPD, 2012).

CRPD: recommending that China “undertake all necessary measures to ensure the persons with disabilities freedom of choice to pursue vocations according to their preferences” and that it “create more working opportunities and enact legislature, so that companies and State organs employ more persons with disabilities.” CRPD/C/CHN/CO/1 (2012).

CRPD: recommending that China “introduce affirmative actions to promote the employment of persons with disabilities, inter alia, to prioritize the employment of persons with disabilities as civil servants.” CRPD/C/CHN/CO/1 (2012).

CRPD: recommending that Peru “develop new policies that promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labour market which could include tax incentives for companies and persons who employ persons with disabilities, the recruitment of persons with disabilities in public administration and the development of self-employment programmes.”  CRPD/C/PER/CO/1 (2012).

CRPD: recommending that Tunisia “Ensure the implementation of measures of affirmative action provided for in the law for the employment of women and men with disabilities” and “Increase the diversity of employment and vocational training opportunities for persons with disabilities.” CRPD/C/TUN/CO/1 (CRPD, 2011).

ICESCR 6 (1) The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right. (2) The steps to be taken by a State Party . . . shall include technical and vocational guidance and training programmes, policies and techniques to achieve steady economic, social and cultural development and full and productive employment under conditions safeguarding fundamental political and economic freedoms to the individual. CESCR General Comment 5, para 21: recognizing “[t]he ‘right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts’ (Art 6(1)) is not realized where the only real opportunity open to disabled workers is to work in so-called ‘sheltered’ facilities under substandard conditions. Arrangements whereby persons with a certain category of disability are effectively confined to certain occupations or the production of certain good may violate this right.”
CEDAW 3 States Parties shall take in all fields, in particular in the political, social, economic and cultural fields, all appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure the full development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men. CEDAW Committee:  recommending that Italy “mainstream the issues of …  women with disabilities, who may suffer multiple forms of discrimination, into its employment policies and programmes, and to intensify its efforts … aimed at achieving de facto equal opportunities for … women with disabilities in the labour market.” CEDAW/C/ITA/CO/6 (CEDAW, 2011).

CEDAW Committee: recommending that France “undertake special measures to assist women with disabilities to enter into the labour market”

Other Interpretations 

The UN Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities 1993:  States should actively support the integration of persons with disabilities into open employment. This active support should occur through a variety of measures such as vocational training, incentive-oriented quota schemes…financial assistance to enterprises employing workers with disabilities. States should also encourage employers to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate persons with disabilities. [Standard Rules, Rule 7]

Council of the Europe Resolution: asking Member States to ‘continue efforts to remove barriers to the integration and participation of people with disabilities in the labor market, by enforcing equal treatment measures and improving integration and participation at all levels of the education and training system’ [2003/C175/01].

Council of Europe: Action Plan to promote the rights and full participation of people with disabilities in society (Europe 2006-2015): “To promote the employment of people with disabilities within the open labour market by combining anti-discrimination and positive action measures in order to ensure that people with disabilities have equality of opportunity.” (Recommendation (2006) 5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the Council of Europe).

European Directive on Equal Treatment in Employment, Council Directive 2000/78/EC

European Union Charter, art. 15: “Everyone has the right to engage in work and to pursue a freely chosen or accepted occupation.”