Government’s New Measures to Increase Employment of Persons with Disability

The employment of persons with disabilities is currently regulated by the “Persons with Disability Employment Act” (Chapter 210 of the Laws of Malta), and at the same time the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC) has set up and to date maintains a Register of Persons with Disability.

The 2% quota rule which was implemented by Act II 1969, as amended by Acts XIV of 1969, XXII of 1976, XI of 1977, XIII of 1983 and XXVI of 1995 and Legal Notice 411 of 2007, has been recently enforced by means of Act No. XXII of 2015. According to this rule, Companies employing not less than twenty employees should employ a quota of disabled persons (at least 2%). This quote was established by the Minister responsible for Labour after consultation with the Disablement Resettlement Advisory Committee (DRAO) and the person employed to satisfy the quote are selected from the said Employment and Training Corporation-ETC’s Register.

In January 2015, the Malta Employment Association (MEA) published a Report which states that the element of positive discrimination is intended to balance out the drawbacks and barriers which persons with disability face when seeking employment. However, despite the legal provision related to the quota-rule (although implementations have not been enforced for several years) many companies have chosen not to employ any person with disability over the last years.

As an encouragement the new Regulation has set out that employers who do not respect the said quota shall be required to make an annual contribution of €2,400 for each person with disability that should be in their employment, which contribution is capped at a maximum of €10,000 for any person/company who so fails to respect the said quota.

The employment of persons with disability is also regulated by the “Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disability) Act” (Chapter 413 of the Laws of Malta), according to which employers are, amongst other, prevented from discriminating persons with disability in regard to:

  1. procedures relative to applications for employment;
  2. the hiring, promotion or dismissal of employees;
  3. employees’ compensation;
  4. job training; and
  5. any other terms, conditions and privileges related to employment.

Moreover, the Kummissjoni Nazzjonali Persuni b’Dizabilità (KNPD) in its report dated 2010 has stated that employers have also the duty to assign to persons with disability duties which are suitable for their abilities and potential.

Obstacles to employing disabled persons

According to the last report provided by MEA, in Malta there are currently 1,300 registered disabled persons in employment, of which 900 are in the public sector, while there are currently 300 registered disabled persons on the unemployment list. Indications are that there could be many more, as a number of disabled persons are discouraged for registering for employment because of a low probability of actually finding work.

In fact, as stated by MEA in the above-mentioned Report, a large number of companies have been reluctant to employ individuals with disability over the last years. This may be due to several objective obstacles, such as, amongst other:

  • the fact that disabled persons are not a homogenous group as disability covers spectrum of situations and therefore many employers are at a loss to understand how to accommodate them;
  • lack of information as employers are often not aware about incentives linked to employment of disabled persons and obligations when employing disabled persons;
  • the fact that several vacant work positions are not congenial for persons with a disability (e.g.: skilled manual jobs).

On the other hand, unemployment of persons with disability has been also linked to the unenforceability of the above-mentioned 2% quota rule. In fact, up until now, employers who have decided not to employ persons with disability have not been requested to pay any sanction and/or penalty. Since Legal Notice 411 of 2007, as mentioned above, has recently been enforced, such situation may thus change in the coming months.

Key points of the new Government’s measures

Aside from the enforceability of the 2% quota rule, the new Regulations give further details on the quota rule to be applied by employers. In this respect this Regulation:

  1. states that the Minister responsible for Labour has to establish a standard percentage of persons with disability to be employed by companies employing more than 20 employees; and
  2. provides that the same Minister may establish a special percentage with respect to employment in any trade or industry, or in any branch or part of any trade industry, or to employment with any class of employer.

Furthermore, companies employing a person (or persons) with disability are exempted from paying social security contributions related to these employees. Such companies are also entitled to an income tax credit capped at a maximum of €4,500 for each person with disability employed.

The new Regulations state that employers not satisfying the 2% quota rule will be subject to a staggered contribution/ fine as follows:

  1. employers shall pay one third of the contribution/ fine for the year 2015;
  2. during the year 2016, the amount of the contribution/ fine shall be increased to two-thirds of the amount which is to be paid;
  3. during the year 2017, the full amount of contribution/ fine to be paid will apply.

Employers may however be authorised by the Minister responsible for Labour to disregard the 2% quota rule. This may only be possible if the employer provides evidence of the fact that no person is suitable to hold any work position within that company.

Conclusions

The contributions/fines paid by those employers who fail to satisfy the 2% quota will be administered by the ETC and will be contributed to the Lino Spiteri Foundation.

This Foundation, established on the 25th May 2015, has been set up in order to improve the inclusion of vulnerable individuals into gainful employment through the empowerment of the individuals themselves, as well as the employers that recruit them. The Foundation wishes to reach and exceed a suitable and sustainable level of employment for persons with disability, mental health problems and vulnerable people, all of whom can contribute to the country’s economy as well as civil society in general.

In fact, Malta is still one of the lowest ranking countries in the EU when it comes to the employment of vulnerable groups. Indeed, the uptake in gainful employment is around 5% of the potential number of people represented in this demographic group. By comparison, some EU countries are approaching 40%.

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