At the closing of the 27th session, the CRPD Committee announced the adoption of General Comment No. 8 on Article 27 of the CRPD (Work and employment). The document delineates the normative content of Article 27 of the CRPD, and provides comprehensive guidance to States Parties, as well as other stakeholders, for its implementation.

The path towards this General Comment started in March 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic. In an online session, the CRPD Committee held a Day of General Discussion on Article 27 (Work and employment). By then, the International Disability Alliance (IDA), represented by Sue Swenson, President of Inclusion International, highlighted the importance of this process stressing very neatly: “[t]here are some practices that we simply cannot continue to accept in the 21st century. States need to address these immediately,” in reference to forced labour or exploitation of persons with disabilities (e.g., through forced begging) and “sheltered workshops” that not only segregate persons with disabilities but also provide working conditions below what is acceptable in terms of lack of labour rights and social protection benefits.

Following a call for comments on the draft by the end of 2021, for which there were around 90  submissions by relevant stakeholders, the CRPD Committee had internal discussions until adoption. Finally, the gener]al comment has been adopted and all interested stakeholders now have an  important reference for  advancing inclusion of persons with disabilities in the economic life of communities, be it through waged employment or self-employment.

Paragraphs 14 and 15 of the General Comment address segregated or sheltered employment, characterised by at least some of the following: segregation from open, inclusive and accessible employment; focus on certain specific activities that persons with disabilities are deemed to be able to carry out; emphasis on medical and rehabilitation approaches to disability; lack of effective transition to the open labour market; unequal remuneration for work of equal value; and lack of coverage by social security schemes. The Committee distinguished such practices from “[e]mployment ventures that are managed and led by persons with disabilities, including those that are jointly owned and democratically controlled,” e.g. cooperative associations in many contexts. These “may not be considered segregated employment if they provide just and favourable conditions of work on an equal basis with others.”

Paragraphs 16 to 22 of the General Comment elaborate on protection against disability based discrimination in the context of employment, covering all forms of discrimination, including direct, indirect, multiple and intersectional discrimination, harassment, denial of reasonable accommodation and discrimination by association. In regard to this last point, the Committee was more explicit than before, highlighting the relevance of the impact of discrimination both on the person with disability and by association: “protection from discrimination also extends to discrimination by association, which may occur when family members or a person who is associated with a person with disability is discriminated at work because of this relationship and the denial of the rights of the person has a direct or an indirect impact on the life of persons with disabilities.”

Specific affirmative action measures to promote the right to employment of persons with disabilities are tackled in paragraphs 41 to 43. Quota measures are included and welcome, with important caveats applicable to these measures. Specific affirmative action measures should neither lead to restricting persons with disabilities to certain occupations, reserved jobs or specific employment units, nor deprive them from opportunities for promotion and career growth. It should be monitored that they are not led to “‘fake’ employment, whereby persons with disabilities are engaged by employers but do not perform work or do not have meaningful employment on an equal basis with others.”

Finally, in the section on “Implementation at the national level,” the Committee reiterates the general obligation of Article 4(3) of the CRPD that reflects the motto “Nothing about us, without us”. States must “closely consult and actively involve representative organisations of persons with disabilities, including underrepresented groups, to review and harmonise national employment legislation, policies and programs, as well practices, with the Convention, repeal discriminatory laws and regulations that are inconsistent with the Convention and change or abolish customs and practices that are discriminatory against persons with disabilities.” This is, once more, OPDs’ entry-point to demand access to and influence over public decision making by States Parties.

Please find the full document here.