The problems obscure the benefits

Although many organisations understand the need to provide jobs for people with disabilities, both employers and people with disabilities still face serious challenges and barriers.

The integration of people with disabilities is a mutual process and access to the labour market should be seen as a responsibility for both parties. The removal of the physical barriers before people with disabilities is the less significant problem. A much bigger issue is that most managers often do not know how to or are simply apprehensive of communication with people with disabilities, despite being the first with whom applicants for work meet. In order to properly train this group and ensure that the benefits of diversity are well understood, firmly rooted practices and strategies for employing people with disabilities are necessary. Representatives of the business sector freely admit that in many cases HR managers seek to hire employees who will require the shortest period of training and the lowest investment.

Facts and prejudice

The most serious barrier before people with disabilities is related to the way they are perceived by those around them. Unfortunately, the attitude towards them, and particularly toward people with mental disabilities, is negative by default. This is why very few applicants disclose such disabilities during job interviews. Other types of disability also fail to be disclosed because applicants fear that their applications will not be reviewed on equal footing or will be seen as an attempt to receive preferential treatment. Many employers fear that people with disabilities will not be sufficiently efficient and some of their duties will have to be performed by their colleagues. However, studies reveal a different picture—employees with disabilities are often more productive and more reliable than their colleagues without disabilities and contribute to a significantly lower staff turnover. This means that investments in them are highly efficient and have a much shorter period of return as compared to annually investing in the recruitment and training of new employees who subsequently leave the company for different reasons. Yes another popular myth is that people with disabilities are exclusive suited to low-skill jobs and that they cannot be promoted through the ranks. Research again disproves this common belief—many people with disabilities have the necessary education and qualifications and have stronger motivation and willingness for further professional and career development.

Why should each manager seek out people with disabilities for their team?

In the current economic situation businesses experience a shortage of a high-skilled and motivated workforce that is capable of swiftly adapting to new labour market requirements. People with disabilities are part of the untapped pool of people with diverse skills at different levels. On the other hand, clients are increasingly more exacting and companies have a duty to satisfy their needs. A number of studies demonstrate that diverse, heterogeneous teams are a driver for creativity, innovation and better decision-making. People with disabilities can have a valuable contribution to a broader and more inherently diverse frame of thinking, thereby boosting innovation at the workplace. If you have people with disabilities working for you, you will gain better understanding of working with clients with disabilities, obtaining a competitive advantage in the process.

The demographic slump across Europe creates new challenges for pension insurance, the labour market, healthcare, social assistance and other social services. Combined, these require a repositioning of the labour market by raising the retirement age and a more efficient use of the residual work capacity of people with disabilities in an active age.
The main advantages and disadvantages for employers willing to hire and work with people with disabilities are set out below:

  • Employers who hire people with disabilities are entitled to significant preferences to be ascertained by presentation of a set of documents stipulated by law;
  • Employers hiring people with disabilities have significantly lesser problems with staff turnover;
  • With regard to certain activities, workers with disabilities develop largely compensatory skills, which are rare amongst the mainstream workforce on the labour market;
  • Workers with disabilities, especially those with extensive work experience, have a traditionally better attitude toward important aspects of production—quality, deadlines, economical use of materials and energy, compliance with technological requirements and instructions, etc.
  • The employers of people with disabilities enjoy higher social prestige and trust on the part of creditors, and public institutions and organisations, especially those responsible for granting permits and performing other supervisory functions;
  • People with disabilities have a broader field for taking action and a better change of obtaining grants and investments from EU and other funds.

The disadvantages associated with the inclusion of people with disabilities in mainstream work teams vary and depend on the nature of the enterprise. One of the problems for small and medium-sized enterprises is the capacity of each able-bodied worker (employee) to take on incidental tasks (loading and unloading, urgent repairs, overtime work, etc.).
Some of the disadvantages are rooted in legislation, which envisaged preferences for disabled workers hired under full-time contracts without reciprocal incentives for the employer (examples include longer annual paid leave, heavy restrictions on the possibilities to alter concluded contracts, etc.). In rare cases, the condition of disabled workers may be abused in order to obtain unlawful advantages and benefits.
A higher standard of care for the health and comfort of disabled workers is also required, some entailing additional resources and ensuring that preventive measures are in place at all times. There is a distinct lack of administrative capacity for the development of projects enabling people with disabilities to exercise their right to work, particularly at the level of SMEs. This is compounded by red tape hurdles that employers are required to overcome in order to use the statutory preferences to which they are entitled. This warrants the conclusion that economic operators stand to gain from hiring disabled workers as a matter of a well thought out strategy. On the contrary, they will gain significant advantages, particularly in the context of applying for project financing. The road to the EU markets of goods and services intersects with effective exercise of the right to work of people with disabilities on the basis of the European social model.

According to the Integration of Persons with Disabilities Act 50 percent of the insurance contributions paid by the employers of people with disabilities working on a full time basis for special enterprises, work and treatment establishments and cooperatives of people with disabilities towards public and private pension insurance and mandatory health insurance are covered by the State budget. They should all be branches of national organisations of and for people with disabilities. According to the Implementing Regulation to the Law the employer that uses the preference pay the full stamp to the National Revenue Agency on a monthly basis and subsequently—through the National Agency for People with Disabilities—fifty percent of the respective amount is reimbursed to specialist enterprises and thirty percent to mainstream employers.
One of the most important obligations of the employer is to adapt the work place to the needs of the disabled worker—providing access to the workplace and appropriate equipment and ensure compliance with health and safety requirements that compensate the disability of the worker and enable him/her to work. The Integration of Persons with Disabilities Act envisaged a programme designed to facilitate this process. Each employer can apply with a project to the Agency for Disabled Persons in order to obtain a grant of up to BGN 16 000 (BGN 18 000) in order to provide access to a disabled worker and adapt and equip their workplace. The assets obtained remain property of the employer and no part of the subsidy is subject to reimbursement nor does any interest accumulate thereon. Prior to submitting an application for financing, the applicant must have operated for at least one year; they must not have any outstanding public debt (attested by a certificate issued by the National Revenue Agency); they must not have received a public subsidy in a total amount that exceeds EUR 200 000 in the last 3 years; and must not conduct an export-oriented business (direct export). The grants available from the Agency for People with Disabilities can be used to ensure access to the workplace for people with permanent disabilities (up to BGN 7 500), adapting a workplace to suit the needs of a persons with permanent disabilities (up to BGN 2 500), equipping the workplace of persons with permanent disabilities (up to BGN 6 000 or up to BGN 8 000 per newly recruited employee). The Agency for People with Disabilities makes the grant available to eligible employers provided that after the investment project has been implemented a person from the target group is employed for a period of at least 36 months. Employers that have concluded contracts under Article 25(3) of the Integration of Persons with Disabilities Act are entitled to a number of incentives. If, at the time of concluding a contract with the Agency, the indicated disabled persons to be hired are included in the National Employment and Vocational Training for People with Disabilities Programme of the Employment Agency (job centres), the employer receives from the government and will not be required to pay the following over a period of 3 years: the minimum wage, insurance contributions and paid leave. If the hired persons were not included in the programme or the funds available thereunder are depleted, the salaries are paid by the employer, but the government covers 30 % of the public and private pension and health insurance contributions paid by the employer in accordance with the Integration of the Persons with Disabilities Act. Thus, persons with disabilities have a guaranteed job for at least 3 years after a workplace has been suitably adopted and equipped for their needs and access to the workplace has been provided, along with a salary that cannot be lower than the national minimum wage and full stamp duty for the period of employment.
The Employment Promotion Act and the Implementing Regulation thereto envisage a set of special measures designed as an incentive for employers who wish to hire persons with diminished work capacity. Assistance is available to employers who have created new jobs during the years and hired, on a full-time basis and for a period of at least 12 months, unemployed young persons with permanent disabilities up to the age of 29, including war invalids and young people from social care establishments who have completed their education. Unemployed persons with a permanent disability who have been referred by Job Centres are entitled to receive a minimum wage and have their social and healthcare insurance covered for a maximum period of 12 months. Employers who have created new jobs and hired—on a full-time or part-time or seasonal basis and for a period of at least 6 months—persons with permanent disabilities are entitled to receive a grant equal to the salary and social and health insurance of the hired worker or employee for a maximum period of 6 months. The law envisages incentives for self-employment of persons with permanent disabilities, notably preferential conditions for obtaining loans. Incentives are also available for the proactive behaviour of job seekers with permanent disabilities (registered with the local offices of the Employment Agency) who have found a job without using the services available from it or using a local mobility grant. The inclusion of persons with disabilities in specialist employment programmes such as the Employment and Vocational Training of Persons with Permanent Disabilities National Programme, the Interest-Free Loan for Persons with Disabilities Programme and the project Employment through Support for Businesses is also supported.
Employers are entitled to receive a grant from the national budget of up to 30 % of the public and private insurance and health insurance contributions paid in respect of hired people with disabilities. Employers applying for project grants who use preferences for the payment of insurance contributions must:
а) be registered in accordance with applicable statutory requirements;
b) not have any outstanding public debt;
c) not have received State aid, regardless of the form or source, in a total amount that exceeds the equivalent in national currency (BGN) of EUR 200 000, calculated on the basis of the official BGN-EUR rate of exchange, in the last three years; the threshold applies regardless of whether the aid is financed—in part or in full—with EU funds;
d) not have received funds for the same purpose from other sources. Specific requirement: the employer must not have used preferences for the workplace in question under the Employment Promotion Act.
The employers applying for preferences must first ensure that they comply with the general requirements laid down by law. The corporate tax can be reduced or cancelled by a decrease in the annual taxable base, provided that by 31 December of the respective year the taxable person does not have:
1. outstanding public debt subject to coercive recovery;
2. debt in the form of outstanding fines payable under enforceable penal injunctions issued in respect of failure to comply with statutory duties relating to public debt;
3. interest on outstanding liabilities under paragraphs 1 and 2.
Compliance with applicable requirements is ascertained by the taxable person in the annual tax return. In accordance with the Corporate Taxation Act the corporate tax payable by specialist enterprises or cooperatives that are members of national organisations of people with disabilities may be retained, if the social enterprises or cooperatives satisfy the following minimum requirements:
а) 20 % of their staff are persons with impaired vision, or
b) 30 % of their staff are persons with impaired sense of hearing, or
c) 30 % of their staff are people with other disabilities. The preference depends on the degree of compliance with the requirements for the share of disabled workers of the total work force:

  • Where the rate of compliance is 100 % - the full amount of the corporate tax;
  • In cases of non-compliance – a share of the corporate tax due that corresponds to the number of disabled workers and their share of the total workforce.

Retained tax must be fully disbursed on the integration of persons with disabilities or maintaining existing or creating new jobs for persons with disabilities during the following two years after the year in which the preference was granted.

According to the Corporate Taxation Act the annual taxable base is decreased by donations made in favour of certain groups of individuals. The tax deduction depends on the status of the persons in whose favour the donation was made.
а) up to 5% for donations to health care establishments and hospitals, specialist social institutions for children, nursery schools, kindergartens, schools and academies, State-owned companies, registered religious denominations, specialist enterprises of cooperatives of disabled people, the Bulgarian Red Cross, cultural institutes and community centres, not-for-profit organisations, the Energy Efficiency Fund, and communes for the treatment of drug addicts and UNICEF;
b) up to 15 % – donations in the area of culture;
c) up to 50 % – donations made in favour of the Child Treatment Fund Centre, the Assisted Reproduction Fund and/or the Transplant Fund.
The total amount of the incentive does not exceed 65 % of the annual taxable bases.



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