If most of us recall Nelson Mandela as being an anti-apartheid revolutionary who later served as President of South Africa, only a few are aware of the former leader’s commitment to those with disabilities. Madiba was convinced that ‘disabled children are equally entitled to an exciting and brilliant future’ and strived to achieve social equality and non-discrimination.
Mauritian law has had an attempt at promoting employment opportunities and career advancement for persons with disabilities in the labour market through the passing of the Training and Employment of Disabled Persons Act 1996 (‘the Act’).
Definition of Disabled Person
A disabled person is defined under the Act as a person certified as such by the Training and Employment of Disabled Persons Board ('the Board'), an institution established for the purposes of ensuring compliance with the Act. Two conditions must be met so as to be certified as a disabled person and they are as follows:-
- have a long-term physical disfigurement or physical, mental or sensory disability, including a visual, hearing or speech functional disability, which gives rise to barriers or prejudices impeding his/her participation at an equal level with other members of society in major life activities, undertakings or fields of employment that are open to other members of society and;
- be willing and able to work.
Persons with disabilities must enter an application and register with the Board which will assess the applicant based on his/her situation and include him/her in a register of disabled persons.
Definition of an Employer under the Act
An employer means any person (or entity) having in his/her regular employment 35 or more employees.Employers who meet the definition set out above have an obligation to register in a register of employers. Failure to do so could expose the employer to be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding Rs. 75,000 or to imprisonment for a maximum term of 6 months.
The law also provides that every employer is under an obligation to employ a number of disabled persons representing 3% of his/her workforce. In addition, the employer also has a duty to provide suitable employment to the worker having regard to his/her disability.It is within the power of the Board to summon an employer and enquire into the reasons of its failure to comply with its duties.Upon a hearing before a special committee, the Board can either exempt the employer to comply with its obligations under the Act or order him/her to pay a contribution which shall be in an amount of Rs. 4000 per month for each disabled worker not recruited to meet the percentage.
The Training and Employment of Disabled Persons Act 1996 must be read in conjunction with the Equal Opportunities Act 2008 which confirms the prohibition of direct and indirect discrimination against persons with disabilities in the labour market.The Mauritian Government also reaffirmed the importance of integrating disabled persons in the Labour Market by signing and ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
If all the stakeholders/employers really want to strive for an equal Mauritian society then we should as from now walk the talk and recognise the social and legal responsibility by strictly abiding to the legislation in place.