The UAE pledged, within Federal Law No.29 of 2006 concerning the Rights of People of Determination, that they would secure equality for those with special needs through non-discrimination policies. The executive and legislature's aim for enacting the legalisation was to forbid a person's disability to be a means of depriving them of their right to welfare and any social, economic, health, occupational, educational, culture and leisure services.
This ethos of acceptance and inclusiveness has been crystallised further through the introduction of the new Ministerial Decree No.43 of 2018, regarding supporting those with special needs in work ("Decree"). The Decree is intended:
- To enable those with disabilities to have the equivalent job opportunities to their peers, and;
- For employers, in both the private and public sector to provide the necessary support and facilities to enable disabled employees to undertake their work.
The Decree defines a person with special needs and/or people of determination as: "Any person with permanent or temporary disability or deficiency totally or partially in his/her physical, sensory, mental, communicative, educational or psychological abilities to the extent that it reduces the possibility of meeting his/her normal requirements in comparison of the circumstances of their peers who are non-disabled persons".
Responsibilities of Employers
Article 3 of the Decree clearly sets out employers' responsibilities to protect people of determination within the workplace by:
- Ensuring they receive equal employment opportunities for example, by granting equal salaries, incentives and bonuses to that of their peers;
- Providing safe and suitable working conditions for instance, implementing ramps, visual and/or audio aids;
- Not arbitrarily terminating their employment, or forcing them to retire due to their disability. Unless the person has reached the age of retirement, or a competent medical committee havedetermined they are no longer qualified to work, in accordance with legislation in force in the UAE.
In addition, governmental authorities at federal and local level, together with private sector organisations, within their capabilities should help people with disabilities fund their private projects and establish their own businesses.
No employer is permitted to differentiate between a person with special needs and their peers on the basis of a person's disability during the selection and appointment process for a new position. In order to achieve this, employers are obliged to consider:
- Using more than one medium to announce a job vacancy such as email, SMS or accepting the applications through alternative formatting such as voice recording.
- The wording of the advertisement cannot include any discriminatory terms relating to, but not limited to, physical or visual impairments.
- Granting sufficient time to those persons during the interview process by using reasonable measures to let them showcase their abilities, experience and qualifications.
For companies with disabled employees, or for businesses currently recruiting whereby the successful candidate is likely to require extra assistance, considerations must be made. The employer is required to make reasonable adaptions to the working environment allowing it to become more accessible, for instance by, purchasing equipment and devices that will enable those persons to work in an equal capacity to their colleagues. In essence the workplace must permit those with a disability to work safely and efficiently.
Performance Assessments and Career Development
Employers should also be aware that any performance assessment must be focused solely on the relevant person's job description and not on their disability. Equally, employers must be committed to providing suitable avenues to allow such persons to achieve their ambitions. For instance, giving those with special needs all the necessary material, environmental and educational conditions to suit their distinct needs, enabling them to access the relevant training.
This Decree strengthens the protection afforded to those with disabilities within the workplace in the UAE. Eliminating discrimination at all levels from selecting an appropriate candidate for a new vacancy, to companies supporting people with disabilities to launch their own businesses. This will allow people with disabilities to become more independent and empowered while encouraging a higher level of empathy, impartiality and inclusiveness from the rest of society.
Originally published August 30 2018
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