The South African Human Rights Commission has launched South Africa’s first Disability Toolkit, “Promoting the Right to Work of People with Disabilities”, a resource for the private sector.
The toolkit brings together a large body of information, guidelines, legislation and links to best practices and resources relating to disability. The SAHRC recognises that employers struggle with disability issues in the workplaces and in many instances did not know where to go to for assistance. The Toolkit will bridge this gap and will assist employers to not only have access to information, but also to dispel many of the myths preventing the inclusion of people with disabilities in their workplaces.
The timing of the launch of these new resources could not have been more significant says SAHRC’s Commissioner for Disability, Advocate Bokankatla Malatji. “3 December was International Day of Persons with Disabilities and the theme for 2015 is, “Inclusion matters, access and empowerment for all abilities,” he says. “We believe that our work on this Toolkit aptly supports this theme and will be used to promote awareness around diversity and inclusion.”
Employers will be required to track their progress. As a companion to the Toolkit, the SAHRC has also developed a “Monitoring Framework” to serve as an easy to use and self- implementable instrument for employers to evaluate their own progress. Both the Toolkit and the Monitoring Framework aligns to South Africa’s disability related legislation and South Africa’s obligations to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The SAHRC intends using the Monitoring Framework to track progress and monitor South Africa’s compliance to the CRPD. It is believed that these new resource guides will give employers and anyone interested in improving the status of people with disabilities, relevant information and guidelines to assist them to develop and implement sustainable plans for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in their workplaces.
Speaking at the launch of the Toolkit and Monitoring Framework, Malatji communicated to corporate South Africa, the urgent need for inclusive workplaces and the full participation by people with disabilities. He reminded employers that, “real equality can be achieved in employment if we improve education, remove barriers, introduce effective reasonable accommodation, and if we teach and encourage our people to practice, lead and manage inclusively”.
The Toolkit and Monitoring Framework are intended to be used in conjunction with other legislation such as the Employment Equity Act, The Labour Relations Act and the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Employers are also encouraged to integrate disability inclusion into their business processes and practices and to ensure that workforce planning makes provisions for, and includes people with disabilities.
Spokesperson for the Department of Labour, Chief Director Kenny Fick, says that his department will be investigating how to best incorporate the Monitoring Framework into their audits, reviews and inspections. Trevonica Naidu, Managing Director for Transformation Integrated Africa – research partner to the SAHRC on the development of the Monitoring Framework advised that she is excited about the integration that these new resources will share with employment equity (EE) provisions, adding that “the area of disability was often a neglected one and that race and gender took precedence in the allocation of resources and development of EE plans”. She believes that the Department of Labour will become a more strategic partner in the implementation of these resources and that this will lead to disability being elevated as a business imperative.
Call for employer participation
The SAHRC is calling on all private sector employers to work with them to test these tools and resources. “We believe that disability makes business sense, and we want to engage business in identifying gaps and developing solutions to build better, more sustainable working environments for all,” says Commissioner Malatji, inviting employers to start working on a new agenda for disability in South Africa. Commissioner Malatji on behalf of the SAHRC is inviting private sector employers to participate in a pilot monitoring study. Participating employers will have the opportunity to contribute to the establishment of best practices for South Africa.