Employment law and policy with regards to disability in Greece is one of the most active fields of action for social inclusion of disabled people. The law involves both mainstream approaches and special activation policies for the employment of disabled people, although the former has only recently been a reality by transposing EU directives for equal treatment and accessibility at work.
The most important Greek law on the field of Employment is the Law 2643/98 “Provision for the employment of special social groups and other clauses”(Official Journal of the Hellenic Republic 220/Α’), which defines the quota scheme for the private and the public sector.
This law forecasts the obligatory placement of individuals from protected social groups to companies of private sector, public enterprises and organizations, but also in public services and local-government bodies, via objective criteria of placement based on age, familial & economic conditions, formal qualifications and percentage of disability.
(Note: The “disability percentage” is an official tool intended to represent the extent of disability which also corresponds to different disability entitlements. The percentage is decided by statutory commissions within social security bodies on the basis of medical information for each individual case.)
According to this law, in the Greek private sector the enterprises which have more than 50 employees are obliged to cover 8% of their staff with employees with disabilities and other socially sensitive groups. In the public sector, the corresponding percentage is 5%.
The hiring process is coordinated by OAED, which is the Greek Manpower Employment Organization and is responsible for the improvement of the vocational skills of the manpower through training and employment programmes. OAED acts as chief spokesman and executive of the Ministry of the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection in respect to the sector of Employment.
The individuals with minimum disability percentage 50% -provided that they are registered in OAED’s records of the unemployed- are included in the categories of persons that are protected under the Law 2643/1998, for which is forecasted special hiring process.
Changes in Law 2643/1998 were enacted with a series of newer laws, that redefined the distribution of working places for people with disabilities – by adding more favourable provisions (e.g. Law 2956/2001, Law 3051/2002, Law 3227/2004).
There has also been a recent policy adaptation to enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Greece. On 1st April 2009 the Presidential Decree 37 published in the Official Journal of Government 54/A, updated the law 3648/2008 (O.J.G38/Α’/29.2.2008) regarding entitlement to licenses for kiosks. This was previously restricted to disabled people identified as war victims, and has now been extended to all disabled people with 67% disability or over.
Moreover, in 2005, the principle of equal treatment was finally legally entrenched in Greece (according to the European Directive 2000/43/EK and the Directive 2000/78/EK). In particular, the Equality Law 3304/2005 (Official Journal of the Hellenic Republic 16/Α’, published: 03/02/2005): “Equal treatment irrespective of racial or nationality origin, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation”, adjusts the general frame that concerns the anti-discrimination, as follows:
The Law 3304 forbids any direct or indirect discrimination due to:
a) racial or nationality origin, providing protection in the field of employment, vocational training, social insurance, education, sanitary care, as well as access to goods and services, and b) religion, disability, age or sexual orientation, providing protection in the field of employment and vocational training.
Based on this law, the offense and every other insulting action, as well as the assignment of a discriminating action, are also considered as discriminations. The law also foresees reasonable adjustments at the workplace in order to accommodate accessibility requirements of disabled employees.
In addition, a very important Greek law is the L.3488/2006 (Official Journal of the Hellenic Republic 191/Α’, published: 11/09/2006) which regards the “Equal treatment irrespective of gender regarding accessibility in the field of employment, vocational training & evolution, terms & conditions of work and other relevant clauses”.
The new Greek Employee Code protected by the Law 3528/2007 (Official Journal of the Hellenic Republic 26/Α’, published: 09/02/2007), aims at the establishment of equable rules that concern the hiring process and the occupational conditions of the public administration employees according to the principals of equality, meritocracy and social solidarity, and the need of ensuring the maximum of their work performance.
Moreover, in Article 7 is mentioned that the employees are being hired based on whether their health enables them to perform the implementation of the duties of the corresponding place. The lack of physical abilities does not prevent the hiring process, provided that the employee, having the suitable and justified technical support, can fulfill the duties of their place. Nevertheless, it is important to mention that in Article 153 of the current law, the employee loses their job after the decision of the official council, if a physical or intellectual disability occurs, according to articles 100, 165 and 167 of the Code. The employee does not lose their job if their disability allows them to exercise other kind of duties.
There are furthermore regulations that provide additional leave for public sector employees with disabilities, as well as reduced working hours. Law 3528/2007 foresees an additional 22- day leave for those who have a disability or a spouse or child with disability that requires frequent hospitalization, as well as six additional days of leave for those with 50% disability or more. In addition, L. 3731/2008 extended disability categories eligible for reduced working hours (by one hour, with pay) for public sector employees with disability. The law update included people with last stage kidney failure, as well as parents with children with 67% disability and over. Previously, the policy for reduced working hours for public sector employees was restricted to people with visual impairments and paraplegia/tetraplegia, while the percentage of disability of children for eligible parents had to be over 67% (i.e. excluding those with 67%). It remains that spouses of people with disability can also benefit from reduced hours when the spouse has 100% disability.
Reasonable accommodation in the workplace
OAED, the Greek Manpower Employment Organisation (www.oaed.gr), implements National Policy programmes for promoting the employment of disabled people through funding:
- Businesses for creating new places of employment by employing a person with disability for a 4year period; the first 3 years employers are funded (full-time: 25Euros/working day, part-time: 15Euros/working day) + 1 year which the business is required to sustain the employee within its workforce without being funded),
- Necessary adjustments in the workplace up to 90% of cost; with max total cost 2,500Euros for each one of the adjustments (e.g. ramps, accessible toilets, accessible work-tables, etc.), and
- Disabled people that are self- employed to create small businesses (2 years). There are similar activation policies for the whole unemployed population, which disabled people can also apply for.
In addition, according to the Circular of the Ministry of Internal, Public Administration & Decentralization (September 2006, “Data regarding the number of employees with disabilities that work within the Greek public sector – Problems in exercising their duties – Guidelines for dealing with the problems”), the public bodies and services are obliged to create the suitable working conditions for the employees with disabilities. Particularly, workplaces have to be accessible for wheelchair users (e.g. workstations with adjustable dimensions, accessible toilets), special technological equipments have to be available when needed (e.g. computers with special software & hardware, voice dictation systems, screen readers, special telephone operators for employees with vision problems), and work environment is important to be bright enough for facilitating employees with vision difficulties or deaf people who communicate by sign language or are “lips-readers).
Finally, employees with disabilities are given the choice of a flexible working timetable, as well as special facilitations when weather conditions do not allow them to come to work, arrive on time, or stay till the end of their shift.
Sheltered Workshops run in most municipalities of Greece under the 2646/1998 law and the Jurisdiction of the National System for Social Care. The workshops are developed as alternative but viable forms of employment. They are in the majority of the cases orientated in making and selling small craft, such as gifts, jewellery, handmade rugs, candles, etc.
Within the field of mental health, legislation (L.2716/99) has enabled the operation of sheltered workshops for people with mental health problems into social enterprises, which run like productive and commercial units at the same time as being Mental Health units for the support, therapy and inclusion of people with mental health problems. The enterprises run with national and EU funds, donations, as well as income from sales, can be active in any industrial sector, while members retain limited legal responsibility. There is no official record of the number of social enterprises running in Greece, however the National Centre for Vocational Orientation mentions nine (9) examples of such social enterprises across Greece, most of which are orientated in selling small craft, and one active in gardening, bakery and in running a restaurant.
Finally, there are more than 50 Centres of Vocational Training, and more than 20 Specialized Centres of Vocational Training for disabled people across most municipalities of Greece, established by law (2648/98). The Centres are services under the jurisdiction of the Institute of Social Protection and Solidarity, established by the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity as an agency for research, evaluation, and specialized implementations in the field of social policy.
The Centres aim to promote employment, through vocational training that corresponds to particular needs of the current labour market. They include social support and counselling to encourage the entrance or re-entrance of long-term unemployed and vulnerable groups to the labour market. Furthermore, the Centres implement programmes co-funded by the Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity and EU, with regards to employment and vocational training. Within the period 2004-2006, 23,000 unemployed benefited, among which 5,695 were disabled people. Vocational Training programs lasted between 150 hours to 400 hours and were orientated towards professions in health and welfare, finance and administration, informatics, tourism, farming sector, and technical professions. Disabled participants received 4.99€/hour, compared to 3.52€/hour that the general population received.
Disability NOW (www.disabled.gr)