Disability and Work: A Possible Combination

We live in a time when inclusivity and diversity are at the centre of discussions on the right to work and therefore it is crucial to recognise the importance of the role of disabled workers in our companies. 

“Italy is a democratic republic, founded on work. Sovereignty belongs to the people, who exercise it in the forms and within the limits of the Constitution’.

As expressed in Article 1 of the Italian Constitution, everyone has the right to work. Therefore, in the presence of all the prerequisites to integrate employees with disabilities within individual businesses, it is the duty of every company to guarantee equal rights and opportunities to all workers. 


Why hire a disabled person in a company?

The integration of disabled employees is not only a matter of respecting human rights, but also has a positive impact on the corporate climate. A diverse workforce can lead to greater creativity, innovation and productivity.

Hiring a disabled person in the company brings a number of significant benefits that go far beyond compliance with the law or work ethics (which are of utmost importance).

A company that is able to reflect the diversity of society will be able to better understand and serve a wide range of customers who can more easily mirror the values of that business.


International, European and Italian Disability Protection Standards

Attention to the employment of people with disabilities is present at all legislative levels, from international to national. Here is a brief overview of the main regulations in force.

  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) places a strong emphasis on the equal rights and non-discrimination of persons with disabilities. The Convention emphasises that people with disabilities have the right to work with equal opportunities and fair pay.
  • Directive 2000/78/EC establishes a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation. It prohibits discrimination on various grounds (including disability) and applies to all persons in terms of access to employment and vocational training, promotion and working conditions.
  • Law 68/99 also known as the “Law for the Right to Work of the Disabled”, this law establishes rules for the employment of persons with disabilities in the Italian labour market. It provides for the obligation to hire disabled personnel for companies with more than 15 employees and promotes training and integration in the work environment.
  • Legislative Decree No 81/2008 contains provisions on health and safety at work, including workers with disabilities. It imposes a duty to carry out a work risk assessment, taking into account the specific needs of workers with disabilities.

These are just some of the many legislative instruments that promote equal access and opportunities for workers with disabilities. However, we would like to emphasise that the practical implementation of these regulations requires a continuous commitment from employers, workers and society as a whole.


How many hours should a disabled person work?

Italian law does not provide for a specific number of working hours for persons with disabilities who, like all other workers, are covered by general working time regulations. These regulations state that the standard working time is 40 hours per week, although collective agreements or individual agreements may provide for different hours. 

In addition, according to Law 104/92, the disabled worker may alternatively obtain 3-day monthly leave or hourly daily leave in the following measure: 

  • Two hours per day if the daily schedule is from six hours upwards
  • One hour per day if the daily schedule is less than six hours


What is targeted employment?

Targeted employment is a service that aims to facilitate the integration or reintegration into employment of disabled persons. This service is an obligation for public and private employers under Italian law 68/99.

Targeted employment is based on an accurate assessment of the abilities, skills and professional aspirations of people with disabilities. This assessment process is usually conducted by a commission composed of medical, psychological and labour experts.

Here are some of the tools that can be used in this process.

  • Medical assessment: a doctor can examine the person with a disability to determine the type and degree of disability and what the implications might be for the type of work the person can do.
  • Psychological assessment: a psychologist can assess the person’s cognitive skills, social skills and work aspirations.
  • Occupational assessment: a career counsellor or employment consultant can assess the person’s occupational skills and work experience and can help identify suitable job opportunities.
  • Practical tests: in some cases practical tests or work simulations can be conducted to assess the person’s specific skills in a realistic work environment.

The aim of targeted employment is to ensure that people with disabilities are placed in jobs that are truly suited to their skills and abilities. 


Who are the recipients of targeted employment?

Law 68/99, known as the law on targeted employment, specifically identifies who can benefit from this service. It applies to people with disabilities who reside in Italy and belong to the following categories:

    • Civil disabled persons with a disability rate of 46% or more
    • Work invalids with a disability rate of 33% or more
    • War invalids, service invalids and civil war invalids
    • Deaf and blind
    • People recognised as disabled pursuant to Article 3.3 of Law 104/92, i.e. people with disabilities in a serious situation, regardless of the percentage of disability. This category includes people with long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory disabilities that, in interaction with various barriers, may prevent their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
    • Victims of terrorism and organised crime.

In addition to these categories, people with medically certified disabilities may be considered eligible for targeted employment. However, it is important to note that Law 68/99 provides for a priority ranking.


How to hire a disabled worker?

Hiring a disabled worker requires a selection process that is considered and adapted to meet the specific needs of each individual. Here is an example of how this process can take place.

  • Role identification: before starting the recruitment process, it is crucial to identify the appropriate role for a potential candidate with a disability. This should take into consideration the candidate’s abilities, skills and limitations, as well as how the requirements of the role might fit with their condition.
  • Disclosure of job vacancies: when seeking to hire a worker with a disability, it is important to ensure that information about job vacancies is accessible to all. 
  • Selection process: it is important that interview and assessment procedures are accessible and non-discriminatory. 
  • Recruitment and integration: the company should draw up an integration plan that takes into account its specific needs. This could include training colleagues on disability issues, adapting the workplace or offering ongoing support to help the new employee adapt to his or her role.
  • Job retention and professional development: it is important to ensure that the new employee has the same opportunities for professional development as non-disabled colleagues. This could include access to ongoing training, opportunities for career progression or support to overcome any barriers that may emerge over time.

Support from HR and management is crucial throughout the process, not only to fulfil legal obligations but also to create a fair and inclusive working environment.


What are the benefits for the company by hiring people with disabilities?

The integration of people with disabilities into the world of work represents a real opportunity for improvement both socially and productively.

From a social point of view, it represents a fundamental step towards a more equal and inclusive society. Moreover, it promotes awareness of and respect for diversity, enriching the social fabric with new points of view and experiences.

At the production level, hiring people with disabilities gives companies the opportunity to access a large pool of talent and skills that is often undervalued. Moreover, diversity and inclusion in the workplace can:

  • Foster a climate of collaboration and mutual respect
  • Improve employee morale 
  • Build maximum team cohesion

This can translate into: 

  • Higher productivity 
  • Lower pathological staff turnover 


Finally, the employment inclusion of people with disabilities can contribute to improving corporate image, attracting new customers and partners and meeting corporate social responsibility expectations.

Recognising and valuing diversity, including disability, is therefore not only a matter of social justice, but can also be a key to success and competitiveness in today’s labour market.