Employers call for sensitization on rights of PWDs

By Catherine Ageno

Government has been asked to make deliberate efforts to sensitize employers in both the private and public sectors about the rights of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) to ensure inclusive employment.

Uganda has passed a number of policies and legislation meant to ensure the rights of PWDs and has also signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disability.

However, proponents of PWDs’ rights are concerned that the lack of clear understanding of these legal frameworks has continued to particularly limit access to employment opportunities by the disabled persons.

The Executive Director Federation of Uganda Employers Mr. Douglas Opio says government must move beyond enacting policies and legal framework structures and implement inclusive employment within its structures especially in civil service.

According to findings released by Twaweza, in a report titled “Protecting the rights of everyone: citizens’ views on disabilities”, 46% of the citizens had witnessed discrimination in employment against people with disabilities, while only two out of ten (17%) knew of any organizations that gave preferential treatment in terms of employing people with disabilities.

The findings also showed that four out of ten (39%) admitted that they viewed people with disabilities as less productive than people without disabilities, a perception that no doubt, limits their access to employment opportunities.

The 2016 mapping report on Employment of Persons With Disabilities in the Formal Labour Market Uganda also indicated that most employers know about the PWDs Act and Policies but very few know details of the Act and how it promotes rights and opportunities of PWDs within employment. Florence Naisanga, a young entrepreneur and events manager with a workforce of about 45 people in Jinja town, in an interview with KFM, does admit that she is not aware of the element of the legislation regarding a tax waiver for employing persons with disabilities.

“Am sure there are many people like me who do not know the procedures on how to access the tax waiver, yet it would be a great motivation for us to employ more PWDs”, Naisanga said.

Mr Opio now urges government to partner with other institutions to raise awareness about such incentives to ensure inclusive employment, challenging the persons with disabilities to improve information seeking abilities and widen their networks.

“PWDs can do better networking, skills and knowledge advancement, search online for potential opportunities from employers and have right attitude to work. This will help complement government efforts to ensure inclusive employment”, Mr Opio told KFM.

He says the employers’ body has had joint interventions with the National Union of Disabled Persons in Uganda (NUDIPU) with the aim of changing the perception of employers and raising the percentage of disabled persons in employment from the current 5%.

“We actually signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NUDIPU and it is now represented on the governing council”, he added.

He says the Employer of the Year Awards have also been widened to include a special category of outstanding PWDs and inclusive employment.

Meanwhile, according to the principal Gerontologists at the ministry of Gender labour and social development Emily Ajiambo although government has put in place a policy which is intended to encourage companies to employ persons with disabilities, very few have appreciated the initiative.

“We always encourage employers to take on PWDs and as Uganda we have the Employment Act of 2006 which provides for non-discrimination in employment and employment on equal basis whether one has a disability or not”, she adds.

Ms Ajambo however, faults employers especially in the private sector for not making work places reasonable enough to accommodate Persons With Disabilities.

Relatedly, government has been asked to return the Persons with Disabilities Bill to parliament for debate to ensure it is passed in the new-year to resolve all the sticking issues surrounding the rights of PWDs. Hon. Hellen Asamo, the Member of Parliament representing Persons With Disabilities in Eastern Uganda says they have confirmation from the Minister for Gender Labor and Social development that the new bill has already been gazetted and will be brought before parliament soon.

The bill that was withdrawn in April 2018, will incorporate all existing legal provisions on disabilities such as the Uganda Foundation to the Blind Act 1954, the National Council for Disability 2003 and Persons With Disabilities Act of 2006.