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Right to Work and Employment



The right to work is a fundamental right, recognized in several international legal instruments (e.g. the ILO Convention nr 159), which is essential for achieving other human rights and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity. At the same time it also allows the individual and his/her family to earn a living. Insofar as work is freely chosen or accepted, it fosters personal development and recognition within the community.
The right to work has been thoroughly elaborated by Article 6, 7 and 8 of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which deal respectively with the right to gain a living, the right to fair and favorable conditions and the right to form trade unions for all human beings. 
Article 27 of the UN CRPD cross-references the prescriptions of the ICESCR, although not in such an exhaustive way as to not replace it, but rather stresses the importance of applying a disability lens to the human right to work and employment.
Considering the right to work, employment now has to be seen as more than the simple provision of work-related activities. Indeed, employment is also linked to the enjoyment of a number of other fundamental rights.
The UN CRPD deals with the right to work and employment stressing, in particular, the following points:

  • priority should be given to the participation of persons with disabilities in the open labour market and all efforts should be done, through reasonable accommodation, to achieve this;
  • persons with disabilities should, in any case, enjoy the same labour rights as others.


Employment Equality Directive

The Employment Equality Directive, adopted in 2000, prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion and belief, age, disability and sexual orientation in the fields of employment and occupation, vocational training and membership of employer or employee organisations.
Article 5 of the Directive provides that employers are required to take appropriate measures to enable a person with a disability to have access to participate in, or advance in employment, or to undergo training, unless such measures would impose a disproportionate burden on the employer.

The Youth Guarantee programme

According to the Youth Guarantee, all young people under the age of 25 should receive, within 4 months of leaving education or becoming unemployed, an offer for a job, apprenticeship, traineeship or continued education. Following the 2013 Council Recommendation on establishing a Youth Guarantee, each EU country has developed a national Youth Guarantee Implementation plan.

This programme is a major step towards tackling youth unemployment, potentially also for the young disabled, who suffer much higher unemployment rates than their non-disabled peers.
However, this programme doesn’t take into account the variety of needs of young people, in particular the particular needs of people with disabilities. In this sense, the Youth Guarantee programme fails to be inclusive. Such an example can be found in Finland, where the programme is open to people with disabilities, but doesn’t provide any support, therefore creating barriers to the Youth Guarantee programme.

Eligibility criteria in different countries also create barriers for people with disabilities. For example, people who receive disability allowances in Ireland, similarly to Slovenia, do not have access to the Youth Guarantee programme due to the live register. In Austria, a category was created of people ‘unable to work’, who are then rejected from the Youth Guarantee programme.
These issues are against the rights-based approach at the heart of the Youth Guarantee programme according to which all young people have a right to work.

Integration of the Long-Term Unemployed

The recent ‘Council Recommendation on the Integration of the Long-Term Unemployed into the Labour Market’ provides guidance to Member States on service delivery in an effort to combat long-term unemployment and increase the rate of transition from long-term unemployment to employment. Furthermore, it is the goal of this proposal to strengthen the personalised support targeted at the long-term unemployed, implemented by employment and social services.

The proposed recommendations are both positive and ambitious along with employing a personalised approach in combating long-term unemployment. It is evident through this report, that the Commission has recognised the problematic and serious nature of long-term unemployment and is invested in addressing long-term unemployment in Europe. Particularly positive in the report is the Commission’s recognition of persons with a disability as being a vulnerable group, especially when it comes to long-term unemployment. Other remarkable aspects of the recommendation are the emphasis on an individualised approach, structural cooperation and adequate financial support for programmes.

It is clear that a holistic approach is necessary to successfully tackle long-term unemployment. The STAR recommendations have proven to be successful in reducing unemployment – and often long-term unemployment – for persons with disabilities and disadvantaged groups. The recommendations are based on success factors found in 25 projects focusing on employment of persons with disabilities. They include recommendations on:

  • Stakeholder cooperation, in particular between service provider, people with disabilities and employers;
  • Targeted actions, promoting an individualised approach, and offering decent working conditions and a career path;
  • Availability of support, enabled by a coherent legislation and funding systems;
  • Research, providing data and understanding of key factors in unemployment of disadvantaged groups.

The integration and implementation of all these actions – jointly – is essential if the EU is to successfully tackle long-term unemployment strategy.

Inclusive Labour Market Alliance (ILMA)

ILMA is an informal network established by the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), the European Disability Forum (EDF), the European Network of Social Integration Enterprises (ENSIE), the European Platform for Rehabilitation (EPR), the European Union for Supported Employment (EUSE) and Workability International.

Member forum on Employment

The Member forum (MF) is a working group made-up of members and external service providers. Its main goal is to act as a source of information to EASPD on all matters with regards to employment. It also monitors developments at EU level regarding employment and disability and respond correspondingly. 
Around one third of the EASPD membership is providing job-related services or employment to people with disabilities. As such, employment and job opportunities are high on the agenda of service providers in Europe.
While EASPD recognises that employment on the open labour market is the best option, it also acknowledges that many people with disabilities are in other labour schemes for reasons of culture, history, policy or degree of disability. The MF covers all areas of employment and work opportunities.
 The MF on Employment's main tasks are: 

  • to bring together expertise to link EASPD's policy and research pillars
  • to follow-up in a pro-active way the relevant issues at European level
  • to act as a rapid reaction force and as a spokesperson for EASPD towards the European Commission, if mandated to do so by the EASPD Board
  • to assure the information flow on topics that are identified as important at national or regional level and require more European-wide attention (or vice versa)
  • to commit to these tasks, relying on the 3 pillars Impact, Information and Innovation.

Our position papers

EASPD Employment For All awards