An end to sheltered workshops for person with disabilities - vote in the Social Affairs Committee


Today (27/01/2021) the large majority of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) voted in favour of my report on "Establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, taking into account the UN CRPD" (47 votes in favor,  1 against and 4 abstentions).
A few days ago, the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the European Union was celebrated and still EU Member States are failing in the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labor market. My report exposes how they are still failing to meet their obligation to people with disabilities to guarantee a right to inclusive and barrier-free access to fairly paid work. 
Above all, I call for mandatory quotas for an inclusive labor market, and alternatives to workshops that respect the social rights of people with disabilities, apply labor law, and pay a minimum wage. 

Green rapporteur Katrin Langensiepen, Vice-Chair of the Social Affairs Committee and of the Intergroup of People with Disabilities comments:

"Especially in Germany, the structures of workshops are neither inclusive, nor do they prepare people for the regular labor market. To ensure that sheltered workshops do not become a permanent solution but actually a transition to the primary labor market, we must create the right conditions for an inclusive labor market. With education, government support for reasonable accommodation and visibility of people with disabilities, "work in diversity" is quite possible and desirable. Here, it is up to the political will to invest in it.
To date, people with disabilities in the EU are still systematically denied the right to work. Only 50.6% of people with disabilities in the EU have a job. Effectively, the number is even lower, as people living in institutions are not included here. 

I am therefore particularly pleased that we are introducing the demand that sheltered workshops, which do not comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, be phased out in the long term. Until then, people in sheltered workshops must be given employee status. Social protection and minimum wages must also apply to them. This will lead to major changes, especially for Germany, the leader in workshops for the disabled. 

I know from my own experience how discriminatory it can be for people with disabilities to find work. This is not just related to the world of work, but to the fundamental problem that many people with disabilities are segregated from an early age and are not visible. This is why it is also so important that an overarching EU anti-discrimination directive is enforced, pushing member states to take action in all areas of life. The proposal for this directive has now been blocked in the Council for over 12 years - including by Germany. As the "guardian of human rights," this is an absolute scandal for the EU. In my report, I therefore call for the blockade to be lifted and for an agreement to be reached."

Nine different disability-related NGOs, two academics working in the field, Equinet - European Network of Equality Bodies and four organisations working in the field of human rights from a minority background participated in the draft of the report.


Phasing out of sheltered workshops that are not in line with the UNCRPD:
In several Member States persons with disabilities are overwhelmingly employed in sheltered workshops, in a segregated environment where they often do not have an employee status, neither labour rights, nor a guaranteed minimum wage. This is a clear violation of the UNCRPD.
Member States have to assess existing sheltered workshops relating to their effectiveness in providing persons with disabilities with skills to gain employment in the open labour market They have to create alternatives where workers are covered by social security, minimum wages and non-discrimination measures. 

EU guidelines on reasonable accommodation: 
One of the reasons employers often feel reluctant to hire persons with disabilities is a lack of information about what constitutes reasonable accommodation and the fear of high expenses and long, complicated processes for the application of state support. Clear EU-guidelines should make types of reasonable accommodation and processes more easy and transparent to understand. 

Diversity quotas: 
Quotas have to be set, maintained and enforced in the Member States. In the case of non-compliance, companies should not only be fined but also be provided with support to hire persons with disabilities (e.g. by voluntary lists of applicants) and elaborate diversity plans.

Universal Design: 
All new buildings and products (including IT equipment and software) in the EU should systematically be conceived within the logic of universal design. As such they could be used by anyone, regardless of their level of ability or disability. 

Considering intersectionality: 
Persons with disabilities are not one homogeneous mass of people. Depending on gender, age, types of disability, race/ethnic origin or sexual orientation, etc. discrimination can be multi-layered. Member States have to consider this complexity and offer targeted positive action measures to tackle multiple and intersectional disadvantages. 

Ensure mutual recognition of disability status
To this day the definition of “disability” and the related social entitlements and assistance vary from Member State to Member State which entails often insuperable difficulties for persons with disabilities to enjoy their right to free movement in the EU. We need the definitions to be harmonized in order to ensure the enjoyment of their rights.

Currently there is a considerable lack of data regarding persons with disabilities, which makes it difficult to assess the situation in the Member States. The EU has to invest in the collection of comparable disability-related data, including on employment, disaggregated by gender, age, types of disability, race/ethnic origin, sexual orientation, etc., including persons with disabilities, who have so far been left out of the statistics is urgently needed. Reinforcing the role of Equality Bodies by strengthening the legislation in this regard is critical. 

Participating organisations: 
Autism-Europe, Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Inklusionsfirmen, the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Equinet - European Network of Equality Bodies, European Blind Union, European Disability Forum, European Network on Independent Living, European Union of the Deaf, ILGA-Europe, Inclusion Europe, International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, Mental Health Europe.