Campaigns and activities
Measures to support employers
Measures to support workers with disabilities
Employment on the open labour market
Employment in the supported / sheltered sector
Employment in the public sector
Employment of blind and partially sighted women
Vocational rehabilitation and training
Incentive measures to employ workers with disabilities
Legal obligation to employ workers with disabilities
Main occupations performed by workers with a visual impairment
Looking for a job
Legal recognition of disabled worker status
Trade unions and workers with disabilities
There exists the scheme for the reimbursement of costs to employers for ergonomic and other arrangements for the employment of severely disabled persons. Under this scheme employers are entitled to reimbursement of costs (up to 1000 euro) involved in providing newly engaged disabled persons with facilities such as ramps, ergonomic alterations to machinery etc.
Besides Law no. 17 of 1988 which provides qualified, visually impaired telephonists employment priority anywhere within the public sector, no other provision in the constitution or in specific legislation imposes or permits any positive action in the employment of people with a visual impairment.
In 2002 the legislation that gave priority to people with disabilities in the employment in the Education Services on a quota system basis was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Cyprus, as this was deemed discriminatory against non-disabled people.
Although the Persons with Disabilities Law (no 127/2000), safeguards equal rights and opportunities in the employment of persons with disabilities, the provision of its positive measures has never come into effect. Likewise, attempts such as the 1999 legislation that proposed a quota system basis for the private sector and the directive that was to establish the right of people with disabilities to benefit from special measures in vocational rehabilitation and ensure their participation in the social and economic life were rejected.
The Pancyprian Organization of the Blind provides recording and transcription services. Moreover, it assists persons with a visual impairment to benefit from the scheme established in 1988 by the Service of Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled, which provides financial assistance for the purchase of technical aids and equipment to facilitate their lives and employment. Despite all the above, there still remain numerous limitations involved in this issue.
Law No. L127 (I) 2000 for providing for Persons with Disabilities
An important development was the enactment in July 2000 of “The Law providing for Persons with Disabilities”. This Law provides in general for the protection of disabled persons, including the safeguarding of equal rights and equal opportunities and the promotion of their social and economic integrations. Specifically it provides: for the specific measures in the field of employment (including recruitment, promotion in employment, vocational rehabilitation within the enterprise); for special protection in cases of termination of employment; for equal treatment in the provision of goods services and facilities; specific measures in regard to transportation, communication and information. Moreover, the law provides for the establishment of the Rehabilitation Council, (an advisory body) a number of executive committees, as well as for the establishment of a Fund aiming at the social and vocational rehabilitation of persons with disabilities.
On the eve of Cyprus' accession to the EU the landscape changed somewhat in an attempt to harmonise the existing legislation with the two anti-discrimination directives. A new body of Law was introduced consisting of four different Laws. Two are relevant to people with disabilities:
The scope of the anti-discrimination Laws in Cyprus covers all sectors of public and private employment and occupation, including:
Discrimination on all the grounds listed in the Employment Equality Directive, including disability is forbidden in:
Provisions for shifting the burden of proof to the employer once a prima facie case of discriminatory dismissal is established already exist in cases of alleged unfair dismissal and are now extended to cover the grounds of the Employment Equality Directive.
The Commissioner is empowered to impose small fines on perpetrators of discrimination. The courts have greater powers in imposing fines. The Commissioner's decisions may, however, be used for obtaining damages in a regional court or an employment tribunal. Employment tribunals are also entitled, in addition to awarding damages, to order the reinstatement of the victim to the job from which he/she was dismissed. Generally speaking, the fines that the Commissioner may impose are considered to be very low and offer little in the way of deterring potential perpetrators. Thus far, the laws have not been tested, nor have they been closely scrutinized as they were rushed through Parliament on the eve of accession.
Although no statistics have ever been compiled regarding the employment of people with disabilities in Cyprus, many organizations for people with disabilities publish their own statistics on the basis of their records. Likewise, in October 2005, the President of the Pancyprian Organization of the Blind, published the following data regarding employment.
It is estimated that 40.9% of the 2200 people with a visual impairment living in Cyprus are of working age. Of these:
- 20,85% are employed by the government or in jobs in the semi-governmental sector
- 12.53% work in the private sector, mainly for insurance companies, banks and investment institutes
- 1.1% are self-employed
- 30.12 % are unemployed and
- 35.6% receive a monthly disability pension or other financial support from the government on the basis of their visual disability.
In its annual report for the year 2004, the service that operates under the supervision of the Cyprus Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance announced the Supported Employment Scheme This Scheme basically aims at providing support to persons with mental or multiple disabilities to facilitate their placement and employment in the open labour market. The support is provided in the form of a job-coach.
Nowadays, people with a visual impairment that have the necessary academic abilities can study at university or college either in Cyprus or abroad in subjects such as Law, Education, Psychology, Social Science, Physiotherapy, Music and many others. Upon graduation, these degree holders will have to compete and struggle along with sighted graduates to obtain a job position. For those who will be employed in the public sector, a personal secretary/guide is provided to assist with the restrictions that the loss of vision entails. This is one of the main reasons why people with a visual impairment are not employed in the private sector. For those that will attempt to do so, they will either have to overcome many barriers on their own or put up with the financial burden of hiring a secretary for themselves.
The Self-Employment Scheme Under this scheme persons with disabilities are entitled to a grant of up to approximately 3000 euros, and to an interest-free subsidy (400 euros for 5 years) to set up their own business.
There are two legislations safeguarding ways of funding vocational rehabilitation and employment initiatives for disabled people. The first one is the Establishment of a Special Fund for the Centre for the Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled People (N.103(I)/2000). The establishment of this Special Fund aimed in promoting vocational training and employment of disabled people through the development of relevant programmes falling in the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance. In particular, the Special Fund sponsors the training workshops of the Centre for the Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled People, promotes self-employment for disabled people, sponsors teams of disabled people who wish to run small businesses, supports any entertainment or sports activities held at the Centre for the Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled People and sponsors any other initiatives that promote the vocational rehabilitation of disabled people trained in the Centre for the Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled People or elsewhere.
The second legislation related to funding is the Establishment of Provident Lottery Fund Act (N.79(I)/1992) which establishes a Provident Fund aiming to provide further financial assistance to disabled people. This fund originates mainly from the release of a special lottery and from governmental grant. The Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance allocates the necessary budget for education, vocational rehabilitation and evolution, social integration, financial aid and improvement of the level of living conditions of disabled people.
In its annual report for the year 2004, the service that operates under the supervision of the Cyprus Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance announced the Scheme for the Vocational Training of persons with disabilities, in courses of their own choice that are not offered by the Centre for the Vocational Rehabilitation of the Disabled.
Under this Scheme persons with disabilities are entitled to the reimbursement of training costs (up to 2000 euro) incurred in courses of their own choice. The training courses should aim at improving employment prospects and may also take the form of apprenticeship.
Since 1969, the Service for the Care and Rehabilitation for the Disabled people has operated a centre for vocational and rehabilitation training which is mainly oriented towards the needs of people with physical disabilities. The Centre provides training and employment in specialisations such as leather goods / shoe-making/ the furniture industry / carpentry, broom-making, knitting and sewing/ embroidery. It is obvious that the Centre does not target, and cannot meet the needs of, people with a visual impairment.
The absence of a Center that will meet the needs of people with a visual impairment is a strongly limiting factor. A vocational and rehabilitation centre can provide vocational training in line with the developments of the labour market, taking into account the employment prospects of each individual person. In addition, such a Centre can provide services to the trainees, which aim to promote their skills, and abilities to become independent and face potential psychosocial problems.
The great majority of those employed people with a visual impairment are hired as switchboard operators by the government and the private sector (35%). Only about 30 people with a visual impairment are graduates of higher education institutions and these are involved mainly in positions in government and the Education Service (Lawyers, Teachers, Administrative Officials, etc). About twenty individuals with visual problems are involved in the manufacture of chairs, stools, baskets and other handicrafts in the Organization's workshops.
The 1988 Blind Telephone Operators Act (N.17/1988): It legitimizes the right of blind telephone operators who possess all the required qualifications to have a priority whenever there are vacancies of telephone operators in the Civil Service, the Civil Educational Service, and in legal persons of public right. In case that there are no blind candidates, other disabled people can be employed according to priority, having in mind that they possess all the necessary qualifications.
Accessibility is a major challenge. The poor transportation network, the absence of appropriate sidewalks and the absence of easy access to buildings are some indicative barriers that prevent people with disabilities from their right to a full participation in the workplace.
According to the 2000 Disabled People's Act (127(I)/2000), disability is described as any form of insufficiency or impairment causing permanent or of undefined duration physical, intellectual or mental barrier to a person, whose medical record and other personal data also decrease or eliminate the possibility of completing one or more activities considered as normal and vital for the quality of life of each person of the same age that does not have any kind of insufficiency or impairment.
Impairment may indirectly affect a person and this should be taken into account when assessing whether the impairment falls within the definition of disability. For example: