243. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way in which he plans to address the employment reservation throughout the ratification process of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the protections he plans to put in place regarding employment for persons with disabilities until legislation is finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6710/18]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy Finian McGrath): The reservation to which the Deputy refers, in relation to Article 27(1) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is permitted under the EU Framework Directive and has been entered by a number of other EU member states.
This reservation allows for the continued operation of appropriate occupational health assessments in recruitment to front line posts where there are genuine requirements with regard to performance of duties. This arises in the case of the operational roles in the Defence Forces, An Garda Síochána, the Prison Service, and the Emergency Services
This is not to preclude recruitment of persons with disabilities into alternative and appropriate roles but rather it is accepting of the fact that an accident or fire scene, for example, may not be a safe or appropriate working environment for a person with certain types of disability.
Part 5 of the Disability Act 2005 makes provision for certain conditions for the employment of people with disabilities in public service employment. It does not currently apply to the Defence Forces, the Garda Síochána or prison officers of a prison. However it is intended that Part 5 of the Act will be amended to apply to the civilian staff of An Garda Síochána and provisions to this effect will be included in the Disability (Miscellaneous) Provisions Bill 2016.
It is important to note that these provisions do not mean that persons with disabilities are precluded from employment within the relevant services. It does mean, however, that the physical nature of certain roles requires those holding those posts to possess certain physical capabilities in connection with the specific requirements of the role. Minimum physical standards apply for specific positions and the obligations imposed by part 5 of the Act do not apply in that context.
Government departments are implementing a range of measures to improve employment prospects for persons with disabilities. The Report of the Make Work Pay Group was published earlier this year and already action has been taken on its recommendations. We have a Comprehensive Employment Strategy in place to ensure a coordinated approach to support persons with disabilities to progress into employment. The Strategy sets out a ten-year approach to ensuring that people with disabilities, who could and want to work, are supported and enabled to do so. A strategy implementation group meets regularly to monitor the implementation of actions across the public service.
The Government has already taken a number of key decisions as recommended in the Strategy:
- the public service employment target of people with disabilities will be increased on a phased basis as set out in the Strategy from 3% to 6%
- special public service competitions for people with disabilities will be arranged and we will open up alternative recruitment channels for people with disabilities
- an employer helpline will be provided with the assistance of the National Disability Authority, to provide expert guidance and peer support to employers in relation to the employment of staff with disabilities.