Ghost employees or Why do work record cards are employed instead of persons with disabilities?
A person with disability can be “not a worse” specialist. However, if an employer treats a person only as “a disabled”, such a person will doubtfully be employed.
The “employment” of a work record card is a common practice for Ukraine. Is it really so?
Positive discrimination or trigger for corruption?
Ukraine has a mandatory quota of 4% of employing the persons with disabilities.
According to the law on principles of social protection of persons with disabilities in Ukraine, the non-compliance with this quota shall be punishable by law. It mostly concerns the enterprises employing more than 25 people. The enterprises employing 8-25 people must provide at least one job for a worker with disability.
In addition, a person with disability has additional benefits, including:
- employment without probation (in case a person has a job referral from the medical-social expert commission)
- part-time working day or week (if desired by an employee with disability)
- refusal to work at night and overtime
- extended holiday
- termination of a fixed term employment contract (if the health condition of an employee starts to hinder the job duties).
However, the improved employment conditions for persons with disabilities are often accompanied by imposing … a person with disability on a state enterprise or corruption agreements.
“The experts from the State Employment Center often call employers and ask directly whether they need a disabled person. They forget about the employment history, the skills and service record, seeing only ‘a person with disability’,” says Yulia Sachuk, the Vice President of the Successful Action Generation Ukrainian NGO of persons with visual impairments, the expert of the Coalition for Combating Discrimination in Ukraine.
According to her, disability is still seen as a problem of a person rather than realizing that disability occurs due to the barriers in society.
So, to find an employee “without extra problems” is a standard behavior model for the Ukrainian employers. A person who will not require additional working conditions will be rather preferred from among two job applicants.
Additional working conditions may mean construction of a mobile ramp, installation of software for blind employees or offering them a flexible schedule. It is called a smart adaptation, envisaged by the Ukrainian legislation. However, the law provides for no clear mechanisms – who and how should provide it.
“The smart adaptation might be provided at a public cost as an incentive for businesses, but it does not happen,” Sachuk said.
Our legislation is extremely “tough”, and it is very tough for the people being discriminated because of their disability to protect their rights. You can count on fingers the trials over discrimination based on disability in Ukraine.
Often, it is unprofitable for employer to equip the workplaces specifically for persons with disabilities. So, the work record cards often work instead of people for the company to avoid fine.
Another serious problem is the search for the first jobs for persons with disabilities. A highly skilled worker has more chance to find a job than a university graduate.
The difference in the unemployment level among the persons with disabilities is striking. If the unemployment rate of people with the third disability category equals only 20%, the people having the first disability category are 90% unemployed.
In addition, there is a bunch of so-called enterprises “for the disabled” in Ukraine – the bulky enterprises of the non-governmental organizations financed above the competition from the state budget, which mostly employ the persons with disabilities. The products and services of these enterprises often cannot withstand present-day competition on the market.
“These enterprises are rather segregation of persons with disabilities than integration into society. Moreover, it is difficult to describe their wages as full-value income. Most often, people do primitive physical work and get pennies. Moreover, there is almost no demand for such products on the market,” the expert of the Coalition for Combating Discrimination said.
According to her, the majority of employees of such enterprises is the persons with disabilities who not only work there but also have an organized segregated provision of their cultural needs such as the amateur clubs, libraries.
“The entire families, dynasties work here… It’s like a separate world behind the fence – the world for the persons with disabilities, whose main goal is not a decent employment but maintain of the basic life necessities and, God forbid, not going into the free floating in the outside world,” Vice President of the Successful Action Generation Ukrainian NGO noted.
The expert claimed that most of these companies were very unprofitable: “In recent years, their property, a significant number of expensive real estate, is being stolen at a breakneck pace.”
Yulia Sachuk calls job on the Internet as the alternative.
“A large percentage – 58% – is employed on the Internet. IT, design, translation, copyright… Very often, the employers are not aware that persons with disabilities are among their employees,” the expert said.
He added that the highest percentage of employed people with visual impairment is in the international companies where more attention is paid to professional skills rather than to disability.
Equaling opportunities. Polish experience
A similar situation with ghost employees, when work record cards were listed instead of people, was in Poland.
But everything changed as soon as the state managers realized that the opportunities for different people should be equaled.
Krzysztof Czechowski, the press secretary of the Polish State Foundation for Rehabilitation of the Persons with Disabilities, told about the Polish experience.
The authorities of Poland, as in Ukraine, set the quota for the employment of people with disabilities. If it is not complied with, a fine is imposed. The money is transferred to the account of the Foundation. The budget of the Foundation is also filled with public financing. Thus, the budget of the Foundation amounted to PLN 4.7 billion in 2014.
The money is redistributed in three areas:
- social security (e.g., tuition costs for persons with disabilities, pensions)
- increase in salaries for persons with disabilities
- rehabilitation (purchase of medicines, trips to resorts).
Every company, which employs a person with disability, receives extra financing from the Foundation depending on disability category of an employee. PLN 3 billion were spent on it in 2014.
If a person with disability is employed, the so-called pension is minimum or is canceled at all.
However, people are more interested in work rather than pension. And the task of the state is to create all the necessary conditions for this.
Another thing is that not everyone who has a disability can perform a specific job (it often depends on disability category).
“Of course, there are people who would like to take benefits unlawfully. However, we are trying to solve this problem through publicity of information. Each employee is registered in the database, and these data are open. Moreover, it is the employer who has to register an employee with disability. If it is not done, the company is losing additional funding.
Of course, the ghost employees were registered at first, when a director agreed with a person with disability or when the registered people did not even exist.
“However, this practice stopped very quickly and the strict control of the Foundation contributed to this,” Czechowski commented.
The Foundation is also working with the State Labour Inspectorate, which monitors the working conditions in the companies. For example, it concerns the organization of the workplace for employees with disabilities.
By the way, part of financing from the Foundation is directed precisely at equipping of these conditions. It is also included in the budget of each province. Money is spent on purchase of computers and software, overcoming physical barriers, travel from home to work, repair, etc.
If the budget of a town cannot provide for the purchase of, for example, a vehicle to take persons with disabilities to work, it may apply to the Foundation for additional funding.
In 2014, the Foundation allocated PLN 90 million to its offices in each region.
In addition, the money from the Foundation is spent on education for persons with disabilities.
“The persons with disabilities are employed not because people have disabilities, but because their professional skills allow them to occupy a particular position,” Czechowski said.
Moreover, a disabled person can get money to set up own business.
“We realized that it is better to invest in equaling the opportunities rather than financing the persons with disabilities,” the spokesman for the Foundation added.
There are about 20,000 companies in Poland which employ 240,000 persons with disabilities. The employers want to hire persons with disabilities because the state pays them money for that. However, the employees with disabilities meet the requirements of the employer.
In addition, the companies often refuse the state aid if they do not really need it.
“Has it always been so? We had to conduct many informational campaigns on radio, television, in print advertising till this system gained pace in Poland,” Krzysztof Czechowski said.
The author expressed gratitude to the Coalition for Combating Discrimination for the expert support.
The article is prepared within the framework of the project “Polish scholarship for investigative journalists”, implemented by the Polish Journalists Association in partnership with the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine and the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine with the financial support of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation program “Transformation in the region” – RITA, implemented by the Education for Democracy Foundation.