Law protects, caters for persons with disability

By Claris Ogangah

QUESTION: I am a disabled person currently employed in an environment that is not conducive for someone like me. Kindly let me know what the law provides in regard to persons with disability. It is a recognised fact that persons with disability have for a long time experienced discrimination in various aspects of their lives because of the negative perceptions that other people have towards them.

In addressing employment of persons with disability one cannot overlook the importance of Persons with Disability Act of 2003. This Act of Parliament meant to provide for the rights and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities and to achieve equalisation of opportunities for persons with disabilities, among other things.

The Persons with Disability Act also specifically addresses the issue of employment of disabled persons.

The Employment Act provides that no employer shall discriminate either directly or indirectly against an employee or prospective employee on grounds of disability in respect of recruitment, training, promotion, and in terms and conditions of employment.

Work environment

Terms and conditions of employment do not only involve the monetary aspect of the contract of employment, but also includes the environment within which an employee is expected to work. For persons with disability the working environment is important, as it is mainly what determines whether the employee will be able to perform their work as required.

The Persons with Disability Act is progressive in terms of encouraging disabled persons to seek employment and also for employers who employ disabled persons. For example, the Act provides that a qualified employee with a disability shall be subject to the same terms and conditions of employment and the same compensation, privileges, benefits, fringe benefits, incentives or allowances as qualified able-bodied employees.

It is important to note that the Act allows for incentives in the form of tax relief and provides that an employee with a disability shall be entitled to exemption from tax on all income accruing from his employment.

For private employers who employ disabled persons, the Act also offers various incentives and are entitled to apply for a deduction from his taxable income equivalent to 25 per cent of the total amount paid as salary and wages to such employee.

Your question has to do with the environment within which a disabled employee can carry out her work. The Person’s with Disability Act encourages employers to ensure that they modify and or improve the physical facilities or make special services available that will provide a proper working environment for persons with disabilities.

Since it is not mandatory for employers to do this the Act encourages employers by providing that an employer who complies and modifies the working premises is entitled to apply for additional deductions from her net taxable income equivalent to 50 per cent of the direct costs of the improvements, modifications or the special services.

Tax waived

This means for every cost incurred to improve a working environment to accommodate a disabled person, the employer can apply to get half of the tax on the cost of the improvement waived.

This incentive is intended to ensure that employers are encouraged to employ disabled persons and this is in realisation that societies for a long time have been biased against employing persons with disability on the mistaken belief that it is too expensive to employ them and to accommodate their needs.

Further, one of the positive aspects of the Act is that even before the official retirement age was revised to 60 years the Persons with Disability Act had a provision that provided that disabled persons were entitled to work until the age of 60.

It is good to note that in terms of hiring employees, your employer does not seem to discriminate against disabled persons.

However, it would be important for employers’ such as yours to take this further by improving the working conditions to ensure the environment is conducive for you to work in.