Study: Estonia's Ministries Have 2 Employees With Disabilities ({{commentsTotal}})

All of Estonia's ministries combined have a total of only two employees with disabilities, according to a study by the equal treatment commissioner.

That compares with the fact that 15 percent of Estonia's working age population receives pension for incapacity for work, and two-thirds of disabled people who can work, do so in the private sector, reported ERR radio.

The head of the Estonian Chamber of Disabled People, Monika Haukanõmm , said the number is probably higher than found in the study, because not all disabilities are visible and people don't have to notify their employer.

"I don't think the number is two. If that's what the ministries say, then we can conclude that they don't actually know, because workers have for some reason not told their employer that they have one or another health issue," Haukanõmm said.

Nevertheless, officials said, the ministries have low awareness with regard to recruiting people with disabilities. Ministries have not assessed what positions are available for people with disbailities and how accessible jobs are, the study found. For one, around half of the ministry buildings lack wheelchair access.

According to the equal treatment commissioner, Mari-Liis Sepper, ministry representatives said there has not been a demand for addressing disability concerns.

"For example, they don't see the really simple connection between the fact that if a ministry building lacks access for a person with a mobility disability, then the person won't apply for the job," Sepper said.

Haukanõmm said: "At least in the public sector, the approach should be one of conscious planning or ensuring [...] accessibility. If the ministries have not given a clear message that disabled people are welcome, then they won't apply. The question is not whether they would like to apply."

On a positive note, the study found that the ministries offer flexibile work conditions with regard to hours, part-time and distance working.