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The (still) hidden potential of incorporating disability into the workplace

Laura Cano Coca

Laura Cano Coca

Today, compelling initiatives are being implemented to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the mainstream job market, originating from both the public and private sectors. These initiatives emphasize the considerable value that individuals contribute.

  • The Spanish Institute of Statistics, INE, reports that in 2022, only 35.3% of people with disabilities aged 16 to 64 were employed.
  • MAPFRE, through its presence in 33 countries, employs over 900 workers with disabilities, constituting 3.5% of its overall workforce.

The integration of disabilities into all aspects of life has made significant strides in recent decades. Addressing the awareness of the inequality and injustices faced by this community is an urgent concern across various social sectors. However, people with disabilities still experience exclusions that can compromise their rights and freedoms, as recognized by law, amplifying social inequality and limiting their possibilities for personal development.

This challenge becomes notably apparent in the labor market, as illustrated by the data: according to the Spanish Institute of Statistics (INE), in 2022, only 35.3% of individuals with disabilities aged 16 to 64 were employed. This situation adversely affects people with disabilities and results in a loss of competitiveness, talent, and productivity for companies.

Who are categorized as people with disabilities?

This segment of the population is diverse, plural, and sizable, reflecting society itself. It encompasses people with a wide range of disabilities, whether intellectual, physical, sensory, or psychological. It does not denote an illness, rather it signifies the individual’s diversity. Addressing this social reality requires special attention to ensure that their engagement in various social contexts doesn't hinder their full participation.

What challenges do they face in their integration into the job market?

The primary challenges faced by people with disabilities in entering the job market stem not from a lack of technical equipment or legislation, as one might assume, but from prevailing prejudices and misinformation within the professional sphere (among employers and colleagues). These biases call into question the validity of their contributions. These obstacles represent a violation of their rights and freedoms, contradicting principles such as equality, the right to work, and dignity. This curtails the valuable contributions that people with disabilities can make to societal progress.

Common concerns include fears of increased absenteeism or perceived high costs associated with integrating a person with a disability into a company. Nevertheless, government authorities are actively committed to promoting the employment of people with disabilities, dedicating significant resources and implementing measures to this end. A notable example is the White Paper on Employment and Disability, published in Spain in 2023 and endorsed by the Royal Board on Disability, Ministry of Labor and Social Economy, CERMI, and ONCE Foundation. This work presents a detailed scientific study on employment and disability, coupled with forward-looking proposals. It underscores the array of fiscal incentives, subsidies, and assistance programs available to facilitate inclusive hiring practices Consequently, the issue is not about ineffective people but rather about workers lacking the tools or accommodations they need.

What initiatives are being undertaken to promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the labor market?

The different laws addressing disability, such as Spanish Law 13/1982 of April 30, and subsequent Royal Decrees that refine and adapt it, have introduced tools currently employed in the socio-labor integration of people with disabilities.

These measures encompass financial assistance, as mentioned earlier, and extend to programs promoting self-employment or the capitalization of unemployment benefits. At the same time, professional guidance processes have been instituted, conducted in both public employment services and organizations dedicated to working with this community, addressing their specific circumstances.

The inclusion of diversity at MAPFRE

It is worth emphasizing the proactive measures and initiatives that MAPFRE is implementing in this regard. Our ongoing Global Disability Program, according to 2022 figures, has involved various awareness activities: volunteer initiatives tailored for people with disabilities, talks, awareness sessions, and news publications on our intranet. We are also committed to the 10 principles outlined in the Charter of Diversity by Fundación Diversidad in Spain. This initiative aims to drive cultural transformation, fostering inclusive work environments to enhance the competitiveness and productivity of companies.

In addition, we have over 900 employees with disabilities in the 33 countries where we operate, constituting 3.5% of our total workforce. Notably, 98.4% of them hold permanent contracts, and 93.7% work on a full-time basis.

These initiatives are guided by our Diversity and Equal Opportunities Policy, featuring key points like “creating integration plans for specific groups, especially people with disabilities” and “ensuring the commitment of the entire organization to diversity.”

The urgency of integrating individuals with disabilities into the workforce is a societal demand that cannot be delayed. Recognizing the enormous potential within human capital, talent, and equal rights underscores the importance of inclusive practices that leave no one behind.