Disabled persons in their workplace - Legislation

- Professor Hennie Oosthuizen

There are several pieces of legislation, codes and international conventions which are applicable to disabled persons. An estimated 12% of our population are disabled. Persons with disabilities and their employers are not always aware of these documents and it is therefore important that it be highlighted in this first contribution.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 108 of 1996, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997, the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998, the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995, the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000, the Code of Good Practice on Key Aspects of Disability in the Workplace, the Technical Assistance Guidelines on the Employment of People with Disabilities and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are of the documents which must always be taken into consideration.

Our Bill of Rights as contained in the Constitution in section 9(3) stipulates that no one may be unfairly discriminate against, directly or indirectly, on the ground of his or her disability.

The Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act are applicable to every employer, every employee, in every business, industry, trade and occupation in South Africa.

The Employment Equity Act of 1998 has been promulgated to give effect to section 9(3) of the Bill of Rights. The purpose of the Act is to ensure equity in the workplace by way of equal opportunities and fair labour practices.

The Department of Labour has accepted the Code of Good Practice on Key Aspects of Disability in the Workplace as it provides a workable platform to both the disabled worker and employer. The purpose of the Code is to inform, guide and educate employers, employees and trade unions to understand aspects such as equity, diversity and equal treatment in the workplace so as to eliminate unfair discrimination.

The Technical Assistance Guidelines on the Employment of People with Disabilities is to assist employers, employees, trade unions and persons with disabilities to understand the Employment Equity Act and above mentioned Code by providing guidelines to implement the Act as well as the Code.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into force on 3 May 2008. It differs from other Conventions in that, while it still sets out general rights, it also details the steps that should be taken to ensure equality of treatment. In the forthcoming contributions the above mentioned pieces of legislation will be discussed.


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