Ensure govt entities are prepared to accept more disabled employees
“The government must create an environment in which disabled people can work stably without overexerting themselves by tailoring work duties and working hours to suit their individual characteristics. It is important to learn from good examples in the private sector and expand the range of places where disabled people can demonstrate their abilities while working.”
The lack of understanding about and low level of respect for social norms regarding the employment of disabled people at government entities has been exposed. Every government ministry, agency and body must change their perception of this issue and earnestly try to create workplaces where disabled people can play active roles.
A third-party panel established by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to investigate the central government’s padding of disabled employee numbers has released its report.
A total of 3,700 people were inappropriately listed as disabled employees at 28 of the 33 central government administrative entities examined by the panel. More than 90 percent of these people did not have the required disability confirmation documentation, such as a physical disability certificate.
Each government ministry and agency used its own criteria that flouted the rules to decide who would be counted as a disabled employee, based on factors including personnel records and methods and information handed down by predecessors.
Individuals who self-reported that they felt depressed or suffered from other conditions were counted as having a physical disability. People with visual disabilities were determined by their eyesight without glasses, not by the level of corrected vision as was originally intended. Some short-sighted people also were deemed to have a disability. In some cases, people who had retired or died continued to be counted as disabled employees. The sheer scale of this outrageous practice is astounding.
The report rightly criticized the government ministries and agencies for, among other things, “arbitrary interpretations designed to meet the statutory employment rate” for disabled workers.
These inappropriate counting practices had continued for at least 20 years. The report accepted the assertions made by the government bodies and did not acknowledge that what had occurred went so far as to be intentional wrongdoing. How many members of the public will be convinced this is true?
Substance before speed
If a private company fails to reach its legally required number of disabled employees, it will be slapped with a monetary penalty that is adjusted depending on how far short of the quota it fell. Companies also are obligated to keep documentation certifying an employee’s disability. Government entities took advantage of the fact that these rules do not apply to them, so there is little they can do to avoid the perception that they cheated the system by adjusting the number of disabled employees on paper.
The labor ministry also bears an extremely heavy responsibility for failing to make the system known among government entities and grasp the actual situation. Consequently, disabled people who should by rights have been hired were stripped of a chance to work.
The government has compiled steps to prevent a recurrence, such as by bolstering check systems inside ministries and agencies. The labor ministry’s role also needs to be reexamined and made more effective.
The law currently stipulates individuals with disabilities must make up 2.5 percent of public sector workforces. To achieve this target, the government plans to additionally hire about 4,000 disabled people by the end of 2019. The government also will introduce a uniform examination for these people.
Yet, it is worrying that so many people will be hired to make up the numbers even while preparations for accepting them remain incomplete. Under these conditions, it could be difficult for these individuals to settle into their new workplaces. Although the government must, of course, aim to achieve the legally stipulated hiring quota, it must avoid acting in haste.
The government must create an environment in which disabled people can work stably without overexerting themselves by tailoring work duties and working hours to suit their individual characteristics. It is important to learn from good examples in the private sector and expand the range of places where disabled people can demonstrate their abilities while working.
The government must make efforts to employ people with mental disabilities, as little progress has been made in employing such people in the private sector.