Work Ability Reform Requires Employers' Co-operation, Spokesperson Says ({{commentsTotal}})

The successful launch of the occupational ability reform requires co-operation with employers and the society, and the income limit above which benefits will be cut, should be set above the 641 euros currently tabled, Monika Haukanõmm, the chairwoman of the board of the Estonian Chamber of Disabled People, told ETV.

According to Haukanõmm, disabled people are keen to work and the biggest obstacle they are facing is the lack of willingness to hire disabled people. Employers fear additional costs like hiring sign language interpreters, additional training, or working with a support person, and colleagues are also often not very tolerant.

“What are we being told? They call us and tell us that we don’t even have work for regular people, now you’re forcing disabled people to work,” Haukanõmm told ETV on Monday.

Health and labor minister Urmas Kruuse said there are bonuses for employers, such as social tax cuts, salary support and counseling.

“The Unemployment Insurance Fund will be offering a service that includes sheltered employment and supported employment, which have not been offered by the fund so far. We also support local governments to make the base of social services as wide as possible. This is certainly additional help,” Kruuse said.

The Estonian Chamber of Disabled People considers the 641 euro income level - after which the occupational disability benefits will be cut - too low, citing additional expenses for employed disabled people like transport, interpreters, personal helpers. In their view the reasonable level is 900 euros, and the Social Democrats, the coalition partner of Kruuse’s Reform Party, have suggested 940 euros.

Kruuse said the number is subject to debate and the reasoning behind the 641-euro limit is the fact that the median salary in Estonia is under 700 euros.

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