ICESCR, People with Disabilities and Employment in America
Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss
Published: 2012-03-01 : (Rev. 2013-06-16)
Synopsis and Key Points:
Nations that signed the Covenant agreed to achieve the full realization of peoples right to work through inclusion of a number of efforts.
Main DigestThe International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) found nations signing the Covenant recognizing the right of individuals to work under Article 6. With the right to work comes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain their living by work they freely choose or accept. The nations that have signed the ICESCR have agreed to take appropriate steps to safeguard these rights.
ICESCR - The Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was adopted in 1966, but only entered into force 10 years later. It commits states parties to promote and protect a wide range of economic, social and cultural rights, including rights relating to work in just and favorable conditions, to social protection, to an adequate standard of living, to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, to education and to enjoyment of the benefits of cultural freedom and scientific progress. It obliges states parties to respect and ensure that all individuals subject to their jurisdiction enjoy all the rights included in the ICESCR, without discrimination.
Nations that signed the Covenant agreed to achieve the full realization of people's right to work through inclusion of a number of efforts.
The efforts they agreed to include:
- Training programs
- Technical and vocational guidance
- Policies and techniques to achieve steady economic, social and cultural development
- Full and productive employment under conditions that safeguard fundamental political and economic freedoms of the individual
In the United States of America, Health & Disability Advocates recently submitted comments to the Department of Labor's (DOL) proposal that would require federal contractors to hire more people with disabilities. The DOL believes that asking these contractors to demonstrate evidence that at least 7% of their employees are people with disabilities would help to ease the rather dismal employment rates we experience as a population.
Approximately 255,000 companies conduct business with the U.S. government. Asking companies that do business with the government to take additional steps would not only encourage people with disabilities looking for work to apply for jobs, it would also encourage them to self-identify should they choose to do so if they are offered a position, encourage them to ask for accommodations they need, and help to build a workforce that is more inclusive in America.
Article 7 of the ICESCR finds the nations who have signed the Covenant recognizing the right of individuals to enjoy conditions that are just, favorable, and ensure a number of things such as:
- Fair wages
- Compensation for public holidays
- Safe and healthy working conditions
- Women receiving equal pay for equal work
- A decent living for the worker and their family
- Equal compensation for work of equal value without distinction of any kind
- Women being guaranteed work conditions not inferior to those enjoyed by men
- Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay
- Equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted in their employment to an appropriate higher level, subject to no considerations other than those of seniority and competence
Employers and Human Resources
Over an extended period of time in America, businesses have publicly stated interests in hiring people with disabilities, yet for various reasons have not pursued their interests. Due to this, the numbers of people with disabilities involved in the workforce is really low; only 21.8% of our population is employed when compared to 70.1% of non-disabled persons. During the two-year recession period from October 2008 through June of 2010, the number of people with disabilities of working age who were employed dropped by 12.3% compared to a drop of 3.4% among non-disabled working age adults.
Members of human resource organizations are not as optimistic about the proposal to require companies that contract with the U.S. government to report the numbers of people with disabilities working for them. The Society for Human Resource Management; for example, presented comments to the DOL suggesting that requiring contractors with the government to hire more people with disabilities would cost too much money and time. They also said it wouldn't make a significant improvement in job prospects for the millions of people with disabilities of working age in America.
While time and money would be involved in relation to recruitment, data collection and the keeping of records, it is important to note that no more would be involved than is already to account for the hiring of women and other minority populations - something federal contractors already do. Recruiting people with disabilities does not need to be costly, and there are organizations that assist businesses to find job seekers with disabilities and do not charge fees.
A business can do things such as:
- Host disability awareness training
- Include a disability statement on its website
- Create an employee affinity group for people with disabilities
A business can even pursue something as simple as promoting a disability-friendly environment which can attract job seekers with disabilities.
Employees with Disabilities and Disclosure
Cornell University ILR School and the Employment and Disability Institute produced a report into the disclosure challenges people with disabilities have face with every single job opportunity. Cornell University and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) surveyed 780 people concerning their motivations and barriers to sharing the disabilities they experience at work.
The most important reason a person revealed their disability was in order to receive a needed accommodation. In fact, 68% of people with disabilities said their need of a reasonable accommodation such as a special work arrangement or a type of assistive technology to assist them with performing their job drove their decision to disclose. The desire to gain a supportive relationship with their boss; one free of dishonesty many of the respondents said leads to stress, found 63% of the participants in the survey disclosing the disabilities they experience.
Other reasons people with disabilities disclosed to employers were company-specific. Greater than 50% of the participants in the survey stated that knowing they were in a disability-friendly workplace, or that their employer was actively pursuing the recruitment of people with disabilities, weighed heavily on their decision to disclose.
Understanding these different factors is important for federal contractors; it gives them the ability to create environments where people with disabilities feel comfortable with disclosing. Some people with disabilities; however, believe disclosure is never worth the risks involved. Almost 75% of the respondents to the survey viewed the risks of being fired, or not even being hired in the first place, were reasons they might choose not to disclose.
As a whole, people with disabilities feared the notion that employers would focus on the disabilities they experience instead of their abilities. They feared disclosure would find employers focusing on disability instead of ability during the interview process, and were concerned they might be passed up for additional opportunities within a company, as well as risk losing health care benefits.
Differences among disability groups also appeared in the survey results. Approximately 50% of the participants who experienced forms of disabilities that were apparent, such as people who used wheelchairs, stated they disclosed in the process of recruitment, while people with forms of disabilities that were not apparent, such as those with forms of mental health disabilities, stated they disclosed less frequently during recruitment, yet more often after they had been hired - an option that was not available to people who experience apparent forms of disabilities.
Disclosing a form of disability to an employer is something that may happen inadvertently, or without permission; something that causes worry to a number of people with disabilities seeking employment. A person who requests a flexible work arrangement might continue to be denied until they finally disclose for example.
The Process of Screening Applicants with Disabilities
The process of screening applicants, as well as background and credit checks, hurt the chances of job seekers with disabilities. Nearly 33% of the respondents to the survey stated that screening causes interviewers to cut them from the pool of candidates for a job because they are more likely than non-disabled candidates to have either poor or no credit due to low incomes, higher medical costs, or long periods of unemployment. Credit checks also reveal additional sources of income such as Social Security Disability Insurance or VA benefits.
Applicant screening, like credit and background checks, also hurt chances for a job seeker with a disability. Around one-third of respondents say screening causes interviewers to nix them from the candidate pool, because they are more likely than non-disabled candidates to have poor or no credit due to higher medical costs, low incomes, and long periods of unemployment. A credit check also reveals other sources of income such as Social Security Disability Insurance.
Think Beyond the Label
"Think Beyond the Label is a public-private partnership that delivers information, outreach and resources to businesses, job seekers and the public workforce system to ensure greater recruiting and hiring opportunities for job candidates with disabilities."
Health & Disability Advocates
Health & Disability Advocates (HDA) is a national organization, based in Chicago, Illinois, that promotes income security, work and education opportunities and improves healthcare access and services for children, people with disabilities and low-income, older adults.
Cornell University ILR School - Employment & Disability Institute
"The Employment and Disability Institute (EDI) advances knowledge, policies, and practices to enhance the opportunities of people with disabilities through our projects, training, technical assistance, research, and publications."
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