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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Government calls on businesses to see disabled employees as an asset

Up to 200 people with disabilities have registered for help in finding a job after a resolution in June

Minister of Community Development, Hessa Buhumaid, talks about the Government's support for 'people of determination' in the workforce, in Dubai on September 11, 2018. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The Government has challenged private sector companies to employ more people with disabilities and to view them as an asset rather than “people to be pitied”.

Launching three strategies aimed at getting more people of determination into the workforce, the Minister of Community Development, Hessa Buhumaid, said there was strength in diversity and that companies should seize the opportunity.

“We have strong belief in their capabilities,” the minister said on Tuesday.

“We don’t want to feel sorry for people of determination. That has to be clear. The Government laid down these policies to ensure their rights as well as to highlight their responsibilities.”

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In June, the Cabinet adopted Resolution No 43 of 2018 aimed at empowering people with disabilities and helping them to find jobs.

The resolution promised "support to obtain equal employment opportunities in various sectors in line with the Government's social development programmes for all segments of the society," according to Dubai Media Office.

Since then, 195 people with disabilities have registered for help in finding a job, with about 30 organisations expressing an interest in hiring them.

“We are continually meeting with prospective employers, particularly in the private sector, so we can support these people and highlight their role in society,” Ms Buhumaid said.

A month after the resolution was adopted, a UAE-wide survey revealed that employers shy away from hiring people with disabilities because they wrongly believe it leads to expensive modifications and increased absenteeism.

Respondents said they were deterred because they believed business would be harmed and that people with disabilities would not perform well. Some said they considered people with disabilities to be the Government’s responsibility.

Ms Buhumaid disputed such concerns and said people with disabilities could make valuable contributions to the workforce.

We don’t look at people of determination in the UAE as weak or requiring constant support. This is a category of people that needs to be empowered like any category in society. We say they are people of determination because we strongly believe that they are very determined, so our role as government is to ... empower them and make it easier for their integration.”

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Employees with disabilities will receive job training and will be allowed flexible working hours. But Ms Buhumaid said they would be evaluated like their peers.

“The policy will help create a system that allows for flexible working hours for those who find it difficult to complete the official working hours, but in a manner that does not contradict the laws in force.

“It will grant them the right to evaluate their performance, in accordance with performance management systems in place, and provide them [with] the right to promotions, bonuses, and other perks,” the minister said.

“We also don’t want them to just be hired but to continue in their jobs,” Ms Buhumaid said.

Despite the push, the minister said the Government would not introduce hiring quotas.

“We want the hiring of people of determination to be real, not fake,” she said.

“Everyone will abide by a quota but we don’t want them to hire people of determination because of a law.”

The introduction of the objectives is the latest measure taken by the Ministry of Community Development to give people with disabilities the opportunity to develop their potential, by providing them with the necessary physical, environmental and educational conditions.

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