Two new laws give disabled more employment opportunities

Jay Ruderman: “It is not charitable, it is an issue of justice. People who can and should contribute to the workforce should have the opportunity to do so.”

August 4, 2016 18:25
3 minute read.

Two new laws give disabled more employment opportunities (Illustrative). (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Two laws giving more employment opportunities to disabled people passed final votes in the Knesset late Wednesday night.

The first, proposed by MKs Itzik Shmuly (Zionist Union) and Yoav Kisch (Likud) requires all government ministries and other bodies to have at least 5 percent of its employees be considered by the National Insurance Institute to be at least 40% disabled. The Defense Ministry would be able to include people with a minimum 20% disability in the count. The ministries will be required to publish online an annual plan on promoting employment of people with disabilities. The Civil Service Administration may order government offices to give it information on what it is doing to reach the target; refusal to follow an order can carry a fine of up to NIS 75,000.

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The second law, an initiative by Shmuly and MK Nurit Koren (Likud), requires fair representation of disabled people in any company or supplier applying for a government tender.

Companies with more than 100 employees must commit to Economy Ministry oversight on fair hiring practices in relation to disabled people.

“This is a historic day,” Shmuly said after the bills passed. “These laws will allow full integration of people with disabilities in the workforce. We are here to tell society: People with disabilities are first and foremost people, not disabled, and we are giving them the key to full social integration. They can vote, want to vote and are determined to prove themselves.”

Kisch called his law “the opening shot,” because its implementation is the real challenge.

“If I have to, I will go to every public body to ensure it implements the law,” he stated.

Oren Helman,  a board member of Special in Uniform, an organization that helps integrate people with disabilities into the IDF, and one of the initiators of the law, called it a "historic law that gives an equal opportunity to people with disabilities, as well as for the Israeli economy, bringing in NIS 5 billion each year. The law applies to both public and private agencies. The age of excluding people with disabilities in the labor market is finished. The next task is to fix the irrational "Liron Law," which creates a situation in which people with disabilities are losing their pensions when they start to work. It is a disincentive that prevents them from working."

Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, told The Jerusalem Post that the legislation represents a “win-win” for Israeli society.

“Hiring people with disabilities is often looked on as charity, but my experience has shown that it improves the entire workforce,” he said. “There is a feeling of a more socially just environment that benefits everyone.

“Not to mention that people with disabilities turn out to be some of most loyal and hardworking employees,” he added.

Ruderman said he is well aware that there are still many stigmas about hiring people with disabilities that need to be broken down, and the legislation represented a first step.

“It is not charitable, it is an issue of justice. People who can and should contribute to the workforce should have the opportunity to do so,” he said. “It is an issue of respecting human rights and civil rights – it is the right thing to do and the right step forward.”

He noted that the challenge remains on how to implement the legislation and successfully hire and integrate people with disabilities into the workforce.

According to Ruderman, the majority of people with disabilities in Israel are unemployed.

“There are businesses that are great at hiring people with disabilities, and usually there is a personal story behind it, a brother or sister with a disability,” he said. “The challenge is to inspire all those other businesses that may not have a personal connection to also hire people with disabilities.”

To that end, the Ruderman Family Foundation has partnered with the Economy Ministry, the Joint Distribution Committee in Israel and insurance company Meitav Dash to provide the business sector the tools and knowhow to successfully hire and integrate people with disabilities.

“There are many sectors of society that understand how important this is. Israel is a small enough place that everyone is connected – we are all on the same team trying to challenge society to respect the rights of a significant portion of the population,” he said.

He added that he was very proud that this initiative was happening in Israeli society. “It will all come together and bring Israel to a better place,” he said.

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