承印:觀傳媒集團有限公司   地址:香港灣仔駱克道283號華興商業大廈1001室

More can be done to ease ‘dual social disadvantage’

-

More can be done to ease ‘dual social disadvantage’

Some people say reading makes a perfect man and employment helps him live a full life. There is no doubt that the ability to participate in productive activity in the job market contributes significantly to both the physical and psychological well-being of a person. 

Unfortunately for the disabled, they are both constrained by a functional /structural impairment (relative to the person) and by environmental factors (relative to society), which limit their participation in the job market. It is called the “dual social disadvantage” (Fabio Corbisiero, Italian Strategies for Job Placement of Persons with Disabilities, in Tom Shakespeare , Disability Research Today: International Perspectives (NY: Routledge, 2015), p 64).

In Hong Kong, the Disability Discrimination Ordinance was enacted in 1995 to protect people from disability discrimination, victimization and harassment on the grounds of their disability. It is unlawful for an employer, in relation to employment by him at an establishment in Hong Kong, to discriminate against another person with a disability in the arrangements that the employer makes for the purpose of determining who should be offered employment. (S11(1) of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance).

Critics argue that people with disabilities (PWDs) may have difficulty in discharging the burden of proof because they need to prove that the dismissal is connected to the disability impugned. However, so long as the employee can discharge the burden showing that disability was a reason for the discriminatory treatment which he or she received, it is irrelevant that there may have been other reasons or other more substantial reasons for the discriminatory treatment (Rohan Price, The Employment Laws of Hong Kong and China).

But the Disability Discrimination Ordinance is not a piece of proactive legislation that can grease the wheels for job placement for PWDs. The biggest hurdle is the unwillingness of small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular those in the tertiary sector, to hire disabled people. Partly because of the growing emphasis on productivity and competition and partly because of the special needs of the tertiary industry, many SMEs are resistant to the integration of disabled people into their workforces.

Like Hong Kong, other developed countries are facing the same problems. In a recent report, the European Commission admits that PWDs experience considerable difficulty in finding a job in the mainstream labor market. Unemployment is disproportionately high among people with disabilities and lasts much longer than among job seekers without disabilities. PWDs are increasingly oriented toward working in a sheltered workshop (European Commission, “European Semester 2020-2021 Country Fiche on Disability Equality”, European Union). In these European countries, unemployment problems of the disabled and poverty are two sides of the same coin. In Hong Kong, disability also bears a disproportionate burden of poverty.

It’s debatable whether the government should pass new legislation to impose duties on employers to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled workers. Prior to discussing the details of the bill, the government should carefully seek the opinions of the stakeholders. The government should weigh the considerations of the stakeholders in a fair and balanced way.

Another big hurdle is environmental constraints. In the late 1990s, the Equal Opportunities Commission published a report on obstacles to PWDs in nonemployment fields in Hong Kong. The results show that many respondents required assistance or were accompanied while using public transport and some other community services and facilities (Equal Opportunities Commission, “Survey on Obstacles to Persons with Disability in Non-employment Fields in Hong Kong, 1998-1999”). The current situation remains unchanged. The lack of barrier-free facilities in some buildings and public places remains a restraint on PWDs’ opportunities for employment.

It’s also of note that some employers and co-workers may not treat disabled workers with respect. Some injured workers, who become disabled after accidents at the workplaces, are badly treated by their employers. They are unable to return to work because of the unsupportive workplace culture. Local employers like to play a passive rehabilitative role, neither encouraging the injured workers to return to work nor making any reasonable accommodation for the partially incapacitated workers. Official intervention is not the norm.

Instead of rolling out a welcome mat, these employers refuse to meet the rehabilitative needs of their injured workers and they may prefer to let the injured workers leave the workplaces (Andy Shu-kei Cheng, “Work Disability Movement”, in Kar-wai Tong & Kenneth Nai-kuen Fong (eds.), Community Care in Hong Kong (HK: City University of Hong Kong Press, 2014)). For moral reasons, employers should implement return-to-work policy by providing reasonable accommodation and modified job programs for the injured workers.

There is a growing appreciation that reasonable accommodation should be provided by employers to ensure that disabled people can exercise all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with others, without imposing a disproportionate or undue burden on the party making the accommodation (refer to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006). But deep dismay has been expressed by some employers because reasonable accommodation may mean unreasonable expenses for SMEs.

It’s debatable whether the government should pass new legislation to impose duties on employers to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled workers. Prior to discussing the details of the bill, the government should carefully seek the opinions of the stakeholders. The government should weigh the considerations of the stakeholders in a fair and balanced way. What has been the main source of worry is whether the “reasonable test” is really reasonable.

Finally, the government should consider providing more support for carers. The literature on the family and disability often concentrates on the difficulties families have to cope with when providing daily care and support for disabled family members. Because of the inadequacy of institutional care, some parents often play a central role in helping their disabled children arrive at their workplaces on time. These parents also provide other kinds of support for their disabled children. As a result, some parents become reluctant full-time carers and cannot enter the job market.

As mentioned earlier, some disabled people rely on carers to help them gain access to public transport and use other community services. From October 2023, the government will regularize the allowance for carers of elderly persons and PWDs under the Community Care Fund. The amount of subsidy will also be raised (2022 Policy Address). The kindness and support for the disabled have earned the government our gratitude.

Henry Ting is secretary-general of the Regeneration Society, and director of Poverty Alleviation & Wellness of Chinese Dream Think Tank.

Kacee Ting Wong is a barrister, a part-time researcher at Shenzhen University Hong Kong and the Macao Basic Law Research Center, and chairman of Chinese Dream Think Tank.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

【CDTT Newspaper Article】Henry Ting & Kacee Ting:More can be done to ease ‘dual social disadvantage’ (China Daily HK Edition, 14 June 2023)

https://www.chinadailyhk.com/article/335820#More-can-be-done-to-ease-%E2%80%98dual-social-disadvantage%E2%80%99

This article is reproduced by Kwun Media with the consent of China Daily.

Chinese Dream Think Tank is a non-profit Hong Kong-based organization working with skilled volunteers, experts and professionals who are passionate about telling the China story well.

中國夢智庫|行動不便群體

有人說,書中自有追趕完人之路而就業則充實人生。毫無疑問,投入就業市場、參加生產活動能力對每一個人的身心健康都有著明顯意義。很不幸,對於行動不便群體來說,他(她)們參與就業市場的融入度受到功能或結構障礙(相對於支體而言)與環境因素(相對社會而論)的限制,此等限制被稱為「雙重社會弱勢」 (Dual Social Disadvantage)(註1)。

在1995年,特區制定香港法例《殘疾歧視條例》第487章(「條例」),將任何在訂明活動範疇內基於某人因行動不便而作出的歧視、傷害與騷擾的行為定為違法。僱主如在請職員過程中,在決定誰應獲僱時作出的安排上歧視行動不便求職者,即屬違法(註2)。

評論認為,在僱傭糾紛當中,行動不便群體很難成功舉證證明自己被解僱人士與自身的殘疾有關。但相關法律規定,不管行動不便人士因任何五花八門的在職歧視原因被解僱,只要被解僱人能證明自身的行動不便是他(她)被歧視性對待的原因之一,即完成舉證責任。其他實質性或間接性的「炒魷魚」原因,與非法辭退傷殘職員無關(註3)。

但是,「條例」並不是一項具主動性,能促進行動不便群體享有更多就業機會的立法。最大的障礙來自服務業中小型企業不願意僱用行動不便求職者。由於強調生產與競爭力,又因為服務業的業務性貿,許多中小企業老板們一看到行動不便求職者就提不起精氣神。

特區與其他發達國家同樣面對著相同的問題。「歐盟委員會」在最近的一份報告中承認,行動不便群體在主流就業市場上找工作時遇到相當大的困難。行動不便群體的失業率高得不堪入目,持業時間比其他求職者為長。 越來越多行動不便求職者被導向庇護工廠工作(註4)。在許多歐洲國家,「失業問題」與「貧窮問題」恍似如影相隨的兩隻幽靈,影響著行動不便群體。

另一個大障礙是環境限制。在1990年代末,「平等機會委員會」發表報告,討論「特區殘疾人士在非僱傭範疇所遇到的障礙問題」,報告顯示,許多受訪者在使用公共交通工具、其他社區服務與設施期間需要他人援助或陪同(註5)。很遺憾,現時的情況還沒有得到改善。部分樓宇及公眾設施還缺乏無障礙設施,妨礙行動不便群體求職。

同樣值得注意,某些僱主與職場人員未能對行動不便工友們保持尊重。一些工友因工受傷之後,遭受僱主惡劣對待。由於沒有配套職場設施與不友善職場文化,他(她)們無法重返工作崗位。某些本地僱主對工友因工受傷後的康復需要反應冷淡,既不鼓勵受傷工友重返工作崗位,也沒有為喪失部分行動能力的工友提供合理與合適的職場環境設施。在這個方面,政府的「官方不干預」態度是「常態」。

因工受傷康復後的工友返回工作崗位時不需要紅地氈式歡迎儀式。某些僱主拒絕為他(她) 提供或協助復職便利,有僱主更希望他(她)們「走人」(註6)。以道德理性層面出發,僱主應實施重返工作崗位政策,為因工受傷康復後的工友提供合理調整、便利職場與改善職務。

社會越來越多聲音表示,在不產生不成比例或不適當的負擔情況下,僱主應提供合理便利確保行動不便群體工友能夠與其他同事在「人權」與「基本自由」基礎上的行使平等的在職權力(註7)。但一些僱主對此表示失望,原因在於為行動不便群體工友提供職場合理便利,意味著加重中小企業老板的成本開支。

政府是否應該通過立法強制「義務」於特區僱主們,為在職行動不便群體提供合理便利?在這點上,筆者認為值得商榷。在起動相關立法討論細節之前,特首李生可考慮以慣常處事態度,有耐心又細心地聆聽社會各界持份者的意見。從而可以秉持公平與平衡的方式權衡眾利益方的考慮。大家的擔心主要原因來自這個領域的「合理測試方式」是否真切地可達至「合理」。

最後,特區政府應考慮為照顧服務提供者施以更多支援。關於家庭與殘疾文獻往往都聚焦於家庭成員在為殘疾成人提供日常照顧與支助時必須面對的困難。由於機構護理不足,一些父母長期全程陪同自己行動不便的子女上下班。這些父母還為子女提供其他日常生活必須的支援,導致父母不能夠全心投入全職工作,繼而墮入貧窮網。

如前所述,一些行動不便群體需要協助乘搭公共交通工具與使用其他社區服務設施。由2023年10月起,政府將把「關愛基金」照顧長者及行動不便群體的津貼常態化。補貼金額亦會上調(註8)。對於政府為行動不便群體呈現的無微不至善意與支援,大家齊來為特區政府點讚。

事實與資料來源已核查
註 1: Fabio Corbisiero「Italian Strategies for Job Placement of Persons with Disabilities
in Tom Shakespeare「Disability Research Today: International Perspectives
New York: Routledge 2015 at p 64
註 2: 香港法例《殘疾歧視條例》第487章 第11(1)條 available at: https://www.hklii.hk/chi//hk/legis/ord/487/s11-19970701.html
註 3: Rohan Price「The Employment Laws of Hong Kong and China
Hong Kong LexisNexis 2009 at p 135
註 4: European Commission「European Semester 2020-2021 Country Fiche on Disability Equality, European Union
February 2021 at p 4; available at: https://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=23952&langId=en
註 5: Equal Opportunities Commission「Survey on Obstacles to Persons with Disability in Non-employment Fields in Hong Kong
1998-1999 at p 86; Only online Executive Summary available at: https://www.eoc.org.hk/Upload/files/Research%20Papers/Eng/6%20Obstacles_E.pdf
註 6: Andy Shu-kei Cheng「Work Disability Movement
in Kar-wai Tong & Kenneth Nai-kuen Fong (eds.)「Community Care in Hong Kong
City university of Hong Kong Press 2014 at p 78
註 7: United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) available at: https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/disability-rights/united-nations-convention-rights-persons-disabilities-uncrpd#:~:text=The%20purpose%20of%20the%20United,respect%20for%20their%20inherent%20dignity.
註 8: John Lee Ka-chiu「The Chief Executive’s 2022 Policy Address
19.10.2022 at p 44 §102; available at: https://www.policyaddress.gov.hk/2022/public/pdf/policy/policy-full_en.pdf

文:丁向群
「中國夢智庫」副主席
義工力量主席
再生會秘書長
2005年首届「香港傑出義工」
2002年第六屆「香港大十大再生勇士

文:丁煌
深圳大學基本法研究中心兼職研究員
經民聯港島支部主席,「中國夢智庫」主席
城市智庫成員
國際公益法律服務協會顧問委員會成員
香港法學交流基金會副主席
全國港澳研究會會員

《中國夢智庫》是一間扎根特區的非牟利團體;與心存熱誠的資深義工、專家與職業專業人士們合作,攜手「說好中國故事」。

*作者文章觀點,不代表《觀新聞》立場