The Right to Work (for everybody): The development of the right to work by the ILO

“Politics extols the rights of man and do not guarantee the prime and only useful right, the right to work.” Charles Fourier (1772-1837) (citied in Mayer, 1985: 226)

The Right to Work is an international labour right. Bob Hepple, in his article “A Right to Work?”  analysed the right to work as a right against:

a) the state (stemming from a state obligation to provide work/ manage the economy to create jobs).

b) employers – curbing their right to dismiss employees arbitrarily, and creating an obligation to provide work.

c) trade unions – creating liability in tort law against trade unions who operate closed shops or exclude individuals from membership of the union.

In 1981 Hepple concluded that the concept of the right to work has been used to support individual employment rights and to prevent unions operating closed shops. However, Hepple concluded that there was no ‘right to a job’ against the State. Hepple’s analysis did not focus on the inclusion of people who are disabled, but did reference early laws which created a right to work, of sorts, for people who were registered disabled by the imposition of quotas on larger employers. The maths meant that there were insufficient people registered disabled people to enable employers to meet these quotas – so it effectively created a right to work, but the legislation was never really enforced. Hepple also alludes to equalities legislation as a corollary of the right to work against employers and trade unions, in as much as non-discrimination provisions fetter the freedom of employers to hire or fire on a whim, where that whim amounts to disability discrimination. However, the literature on the right to work remains mainly focused on the right as a right for everybody.

The aspect of the right to work that this post is concerned with is that right against the state. In particular, this blog post will look at how the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has developed and interpreted the right to work as a right against the state, drawing on an article by Jean Mayer (1985).

The International Labour Organisation, the first organisation to engage in international standard setting of labour rights, considers the right to work – as an obligation on states to take effective measures to promote full(ish) employment.

The consideration of access to employment and the need of states to engage with demands for a livelihood are present from the outset and have gradually developed and crystalized into a right to work, through the following conventions and recommendations:

  • Constitution of the International Labour Organisation 1919
  • Unemployment Convention 1919
  • The Declaration of Philadelphia 1944
  • Employment Policy Convention 1964
  • Employment Policy Convention 1964 (No. 122), Recommendation
  • Employment Policy (Supplementary Provisions) Recommendation, 1984 (No. 169)

Mayer considers the modern concept of labour originates in industrial capitalism, which in the eighteenth century created a “clear-cut distinction between work and non-work, use value and exchange value” (1985: 226).

Mayer also considers that social rights emerged from the proclamations of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen 1789  that “all men are born and remain free and equal in rights…any society in which no provision is made for guaranteeing rights… has no constitution” (1985:

Like Hepple, Mayer considers the ‘elimination of discrimination in access to employment’ as a corollary of the right to work, rather than an element of it (1985: 225).

Mayer charts the progress of the right to work from constitution to the Employment Policy Convention of 1964. The right to work has been a concern from the outset and is implicit in its constitution and the Philadelphia Declaration (Mayer, 1985: 225). The Employment Policy Convention 1964 and the accompanying recommendation is the most important document on employment (Mayer, 1985: 227). “The Committee of Experts on the Application of the Convention and Recommendations has stressed that, although there is no express mention in Convention No. 122 of the the right to work, the steps to be taken to achieve the full realisation of this right as set out in Article 6 (2) of the ICESCR are essentially measures of employment policy of the type required under the Convention (Mayer, 1985: 227 based on doc. E/1978/27).

Analysis of the drafting of the Employment Policy (Supplementary Provisions) Recommendation, 1984 (No. 169)

  • A Resolution of the 65th Session of the International Labour Conference in 1979, following on from the World Employment Conference, called for the revision of the Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (Mayer, 1985: 225).
  • A Draft resolution, calling for the right to work to be embodied in a new convention was rejected (Mayer, 1985: 225).
  • The ILO compiled an analysis of State Parties’ positions on the right to work, including whether the right was guaranteed and came with a corresponding duty.
  • “The differing positions adopted can be largely accounted for by the differences between the economic and social systems represented: on the one and, the centrally planned socialist economies called for the recognition and guarantee of the right to work as an essential component of a co-ordinated government policy; on the other hand, the developed and developing market economy countries either argued that the establishment of this right was unnecessary or accepted it only as a distant objective.” (Mayer, 1985: 238).
  • Many socialist countries felt that the right to work should include guaranteed work, or social security benefits, to conform with the ICESCR. (237)
  • The UK and other governments of market economies felt some unemployment was an acceptable trade-off to avoid directing labour and ensure work is freely chosen (237).
  • Other governments of market economies, like Cameroon and India, approved of the objective of full-employment but considered it difficult to realise for want of resources.
  • These divergent opinions led to the rejection of the amendment of the 1964 Convention to include a right to work, implementation of which would require the right to form an integral part of economic policy. Instead the amendment was adopted as a recommendation (238-9).
  • The recommendation represents a compromise between interventionism and laissez-faire policies (239).

The Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations describes some of its approach to some standards as “promotional”. “Promotional” Conventions set standards that ratifying states commit to achieving through a continuing programme of action, rather than immediately. The Employment Policy Convention is a promotional convention, making it difficult to supervise. (239).

Nevertheless, the Committee of Experts has made the following observations:

  • Where unemployment is rising the Committee’s task is “to ascertain that the protection and promotion of employment are among the central goals of national policy” (240).
  • Governments must provide information on its measures to tackle declines in important sectors of industries, including the promotion of new employment opportunities “promoting the major goal, laid down by the Convention, of ensuring that there is work for all who are available for work and seeking work” (240).
  • Government employment objectives should be specific when employment is high. (240)
  • Governments should not prioritise tackling inflation over employment policies. (240)

Mayer considers this to be a similar distinction to the obligations to consult and seek co-operation within tripartism (the idea that State, employers’ and employees’ representatives all have an active role) in the Employment Policy Convention. Article 3 creates a requirement to consult, but co-operation need only be sought.

“What is required, in short, is that governments should play an active part in promoting employment and, when drawing up their economic and social policies, take appropriate measures to that end after consulting employers’ and workers representatives. Total laissez-faire and an absence of social dialogue are thus both implicitly condemned. On the other hand, the degree of success achieved in reducing unemployment and promoting employment or in establishing a consensus is not in itself a matter for controversy that could invite ILO criticism, provided it is shown that the measures adopted are genuinely and effectively aimed at objectives corresponding to those established by Convention No. 122 and that the principle of tripartism has been applied. But it goes without saying that employment policy cannot be defended on the grounds of sincerity alone: if it does not produce results, it should be changed. The touchstone here is effectiveness” (Mayer, 1985: 240-1).

Since the publication of Mayer’s article the most significant event has been the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This convention creates a specific right to work for people who are disabled and is discussed in a previous post. I hope to comment further on the interaction of these two separate conventions adopted by separate UN bodies.

For people who are disabled the importance of this right, including interpretation of this right by the ILO Committee of Experts on the interpretation of conventions and recommendations, is the pressure it puts to bear on governments to adopt economic policies to promote employment and the primacy of this obligation over competing demands, such as the pressure to control high inflation. For an inclusive interpretation this also means that there is an obligation to take effective steps to promote the employment of people who are disabled.

The UK government have recently issued a consultation paper: Improving Lives The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper , much of which is focussed on getting people who are disabled into work. It is available to download by clicking here

The paper recognises that less than half (48%) of disabled people are in employment compared to 80% of the non-disabled population.Its rhetoric is of fairness and the unacceptable injustice for people who are disabled. Who doesn’t want to make things fairer for people who are disabled, enable people who want to work to get decent jobs with promotion prospects and the flexibility to meet their individual needs without aggravating any impairment? These words are easy. Along with tackling barriers the  government’s agenda includes reducing the cost of the welfare bill, which it estimates at 19 billion per annum arising from ill health, with an overall costs to the economy as 100 billion. The situation is presented as ‘unacceptable’, requiring action. The strategy is to provide support centred on the disabled person or person with a health condition. The disabled person is to be put at the centre of multi-agency support, coaching and health care. A complaint of people with impairments used to be their treatment by ‘experts’ as passive recipients. Over time social policy has changed its emphasis, treating people who use health and social services as ‘active consumers’ (Dean, 2015: 15-16). This consultation echoes this trend, expecting individuals to ‘be better able to manage any health conditions’. We may then get the worst of both worlds, being placed at the centre of joined-up services and expected to take a lead, take responsibility for managing our health conditions and setting ourselves goals and high expectations for work under the watch of coaches, occupational therapists and health workers.

This is not the place to go into the report in depth. However, as people with ill health and impairments are increasingly scrutinised, presented as deviant, and find the thresholds for claiming support are being raised as services are cut, it may be worth looking at this report from the perspective right to work, questioning the onus on the individual with health concerns or impairment(s) and putting the focus back on the government’s responsibility to create an economy which provides decent, healthy jobs accessible to all.


Dean, H. (2015) Social Rights and Human Welfare. London and New York: Routledge.

Department of Work and Pensions & Department of Health (2016) Improving Lives The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper cm 9342

Hepple, B. (1981). Right to Work. Industrial Law Journal 10(2), 65-83.

Mayer, J. (1985). The Concept of the Right to Work in International Standards and the Legislation of ILO Member States. International Labour Review 124(2), 225-242.


The deficit view of disability


In a recent article published in Disability Studies Quarterly (free online) Janette Dinishak writes about the deficit view of disability. The article is is called ‘The Deficit View and Its Critics’. You can read it by following the link here:

Here is a summary of the article:

The central issue is our understanding and characterisation of difference.

  • The deficit view tends to characterise target individuals or groups  “primarily (or even solely) in terms of their perceived deficiencies, dysfunctions, problems, needs, and limitations”.
  • Critics claim that the deficit view is harmful and “diminishes people’s life chances and even their humanity.”
  • Jannette Dinishak claims an additional harm: the deficit view impedes our pscyhological and philosophical progress in understanding differences like autism.
  • In relation to autism, research has concentrated on “what is wrong” this is posited as consistent with conditions classified as ‘disorders’.
  • In relation to autism, diagnosis and intervention is concentrated on “what is wrong”: “negatively valued deviations from norms” ignoring strengths, gifts and talents.
  • The neurodiversity movement rejects the search for a ‘cure’ as autism is an integral part of the person, and some aspects of autism are positive. Although acknowledging impairments can be negative how they are experienced is often the product of social, political and environmental factors.
  • A deficit view can be characterised as a broad approach where the concentration on deficits influences every aspect of research and reasoning. Critiques interrogate and challenge dominant depictions of autism and propose alternative enabling constructions. A deficit approach is a framework, a way of looking at things that will not change just because of a piece of fresh evidence.
  • A narrower use of the term ‘deficit view’ for autism relates to the cluster of hypothesised ‘lacks’ that explain autism. This is more akin to an empirical claim that can be challenged.
  • Viewing something as a deficit has a normative function, it suggests what someone ought to have. A lack or absence is only problematic if it ought to be there.

“Disability rights movements argue that people with differences such as blindness, deafness, or paraplegia, for example, are not necessarily deficient or impaired. Rather, the question of whether lack of sight, hearing, or a limb constitutes a deficit is person- and context-specific (Silvers 2003). A person with a lack of sight, hearing, or a limb may experience harm or suffering in connection with the lack in some social and material environments but not others. For example, a person in a wheelchair is not disabled with respect to building entry if the building is wheelchair accessible. Thus, not being able to walk is only a deficit in contexts in which walking is the only way to self-locomote.”

  • A deficit is a deviation from the normal. Deviation, whether as lack or excess, is then contrasted with ‘normal’ as both a descriptive standard and an evaluative, or ideal standard and ‘normal’ is an aspirational goal to return to, maintain or aspire to.
  • Medically, pathologies are manifestations of disease. Psychologically, to pathologize devations in mood and behaviour is to treat it as unhealthy. All deficits are necessarily pathologies (as are excesses). A deficit view of autism therefore involves a particular type of pathologization.
  • Three problems with the deficit approach to autism:
    • it may result in overlooking other explanations. For example avoiding eye conduct may result from heightened emotional responses, rather than lack of social connection.
    • There is a moral complacency in accepting the standard of normal, including an acceptance of the values involved in making judgments of what is normal. For example, suffering is part of the diagnosis but there is no clear correlation between autistic deficits and suffering.
    • It leads to deficit terminology – even when no clear deficit is apparent. For example, brain scans are discussed in terms of deficits where the cortex is thicker rather than thinner. High performance in tests are interpreted as by-products of deficits in other functions. Neurotypical comparators are never described as having deficits when they perform lower than autists. This demonstrates that test results are interpreted differently depending on whether a diagnosis of autism is known.
    • These problems can be overcome by researches becoming aware of them and taking steps to address them.
  • Stronger objections to the deficit view:
    • Seeing people in terms of deficits dehumanises them, or at least makes them deficient in a vital quality of being human.
    • Dehumanisation is used to justify oppression, marginalisation and exploitation of alterity. Dehumanisation limits ability to understand and interpret out-group members’ behaviour.
    • Deficit views impede our understanding of the phenomena concerned.
    • Deficit views are quantitative. They compare the absence (and sometimes the excess) of a feature rather than analysing the quality of specific traits and functions. “In an important sense, the phenomenon has no identity of its own, independent from mere quantitative comparison with what is labeled normal.” A deficit approach is therefore conceptually constraining. There become only two options: order and disorder, rather than an alternative order.
    • Some autistic people have called for recognition of their alternative order and positive recognition of qualitatively different states of being.
  • Conclusions
    • Deficit views of ‘others’ have proved historically dangerous. In particular humans are sensitive to classifications made of them and others, they both react to and remake them.
    • Deficit views have been applied to women and people of colour of low social economic status, measured according to a specific standard and explanations for difference explained in terms of a single factors internal to the subject, ignoring multiple and complex external factors. Deficit explanations occasion negative personal and social impacts.
    • Of major importance is the limiting nature of the deficit view. It impedes progress in understanding difference and can lack critical analysis of the relationship between description and evaluation and of the production of ‘expert’ knowledge.

My views:

The deficit view of disability is new to me. It seems to reflect the medical model of disability critiqued by disability rights activists on similar grounds to the criticisms of the deficit view: ‘experts’ (medics, social work professionals, and so forth) are criticised as viewing the person as the cause of the disability and for the framing of disability as negative and atypical.

The idea that viewing ‘otherness’ through a single lens or paradigm precludes progress in understanding is also redolent of debates on equality. For example, both the distributive paradigm of liberal egalitarians and the methodology of ‘luck egalitarians’ have been criticised as producing theory which misses the point.  The blaming of individuals for the difficulties they face in society, without reference to the structural inequalities that constrain some and enable others, and the reinforcing and reproduction of structural relations are points made by feminists like Iris Marion Young and Nancy Fraser.

Where I find this work particularly instructive is in its particular application to autism and the study of autism. Although the author recognises that researchers are capable of self-reflection there nevertheless has been a scramble to understand autism and an uncritical application of theories to individuals on the autistic spectrum. Exposing the harms of deficit views clearly provides a cautionary tale to parents and carers of autists, teachers, medics, employers and others about uncritically accepting expert knowledge and validates those who refuse to conform to limiting stereotypes about who they are.

Looking more broadly at the world of work, again our understanding of the harms of a deficit approach should act as a prompt to see and respond to individual employees as who they really are. Furthermore, the key lessons is that heterogenity is normal and thinking about the qualitative differences between us is more instructive and useful than comparisons of what can or cannot do, have or haven’t got. This may present us with a case for both modifying and universalising our approach to disability.

Employers should not be expecting standard individuals and seeing people who are disabled as some how less and requiring more. Employers should be expecting diversity and that each individual employee will come with different qualities, needs and talents, which will fluctuate and change over time.





The politicized body and (in)eligibility for rights

In a recent article in Disability Studies Quarterly ‘The Body and its Able-ness: Articulating In/Eligibility through Rhetorics of Motherhood, Unjust Language, and Questionable Medical Authority’ available online at:

the authors examine the use of language in arguments about disability, and ultimately the worth of people who are disabled. The authors reference Emily Russell’s Reading Embodied Citizenship: Disability, Narrative, and the Body Politic.

“Focusing on the ways in which the public responds to unjust language in regards to a disabled body reveals much about what Russell refers to as the politicized body, or the politic of the social body. Russell argues that the way we talk about the physical body situates a political understanding of the body’s (in)eligibility for certain rights. From this perspective, the public discussion’s insistent focus on the unjust language about Mia’s body implies that how we regard bodies has symbolic implications, meaning the ways in which we talk about a body and its able-ness carries much ideological and material weight. In Mia’s case, these symbolic implications are a way to engage in a counterargument against ineligibility of individuals who are disabled to receive life-saving treatments based on their mental capacity. One such counterargument anchored in Chrissy’s discourse is the accusation that the CHOP physician referred to Mia as “mentally retarded” (Rivera para. 4).”

Ultimately the examination of different public discourses reveal the struggle over who has the authority over defining and describing the quality of life of people who are disabled and who gets to decide the implications of decisions about quality of life. These same struggles are arguably applicable to the right to work and the right to subsistence. Who gets to decide what a person’s quality of life is and whether it will be enhanced by participation in work, paid or otherwise? Behind both medical and economic decisions lurk the questions of resource implications. Would Mia’s doctors have thought twice about the operation if they had a surplus of kidneys, time, equipment and money? Similarly, a worker’s needs for adjustments is balanced against the costs of implementing it. Should these decisions be the private decisions of doctors and employers? Or the courts? Or debated publicly and in more detail? Given the failure of the Equality Act to remove barriers for people who are disabled it is suggested that further public debate is required, which valorises not only work but the people who are disabled themselves.

Disabled people, work and welfare

I have just (briefly) read the book ‘Disabled people, work and welfare’ edited by Chris Grover and Linda Piggott. This post is not so much a review of the book as a summary of my initial thoughts on how the contents relate to my own interest: the right to work for disabled people.


Firstly, as always, there are definitional issues: what counts as disability and what counts as work? Examining disability from a social welfare perspective creates particular definitions linked to thresholds of benefit entitlement, which in turn may be linked to the ability or inability to work. In the UK eligibility for Incapacity Benefit, now Employment and Support Allowance, are based on ‘work capability assessments’. Parallel and independent of the work related assessments are assessments of ‘independence’. These look at mobility and daily living needs that are greater than those of people of a similar age and in the UK ‘Personal Independence Payments’ are awarded to help with the costs of such additional needs. These are flat rate payments according to the band of need, they do not assess the actual costs of needs. The book explores the approaches to these assessments and the underlying political and ideological motivations for changes to in work and out of work benefits, in particular the increased conditionality of income transfers for people who are disabled.

The value and nature of work

Consistent with the academic literature in the field, the definition of work is problematised within various chapters of the book. The potential value of work is acknowledged in terms of social inclusion, therapeutic occupation, choice, independence and a way out of poverty. However, there is recognition that the work must be ‘decent work’. (A point which echoes the International Labour Organisation’s ‘decent work’ agenda.) However the book also recognises that out-with a capitalist welfare state alternative means for achieving these benefits could exist and work itself is not to be idolised. The book sees potential in arguments from Paul Lafargue and Bertrand Russell, who called for less work and more leisure or cultural activities, Peter Kropotkin and more recently Bob Black who advocate the abolition of work altogether. Grosvener and Piggott see arguments for working less, or not at all, particularly pertinent from a disability perspective, given that for some people who are disabled coerced work may be harmful or just not feasible “In this space there must be room for an approach to be developed that allows for disabled people to legitimately not do wage work” (249).

What is counted as work is also explored and positioned as varieties of productivity in which only a specific tax paying from of productivity is valorised and unpaid work or work within the informal economy is not recognised. In relation to people who are disabled, Alan Rouleston in Chapter 14 also questions the employer/employee and producer/recipient dichotomies in the context of people who employ personal assistants, albeit funded by direct payments from social services or access to work. He points to the HR functions such employment involves and the skills required to direct, manage and develop personal assistants, and the economic contribution of such work.

The right to work and the right not to work

‘The right to work’ for people who are disabled is not unequivocally accepted or advocated. At its most minimal the right to work has been described as the right not to be discriminated against at work (Hepple, 1981. Cited in Grosvenor and Piggot, 2015: 243). From the book’s examination of recent government policies it is evident that government obligations to meet the right to work have been interpreted by governments as a right to receive (some) government funded support getting work and staying in work, coupled with legislation to outlaw unreasonable or arbitrary disability discrimination. Beyond this the discourse of the right to work may have the unintended consequence of privileging work about other activities. Accordingly, in chapter thirteen Glover and Piggott advocate for the right not to work. From a marxist perspective they note that the commodification of wage labour is exploitative, suggesting that paid work may not end the oppression of the disabled but alter or subsume it within the oppression of the working classes. Glover and Piggott also note the links between neoliberalism and the right to work for people who are disabled: both are about getting people economically active and promoted not just by some disabled people, but by organisations contracted to get the disabled into work (2015, 243). They seem to question whether this is really in the interests of (all) people who are disabled.

Grosvenor and Piggott note the increasing imbalance in the obligations of employers and disabled people. On the one hand employers are obligated to abide by equalities legislation, which on my view is weakly enforced. On the other disabled people are not legally forced to work (forced labour is a prohibited under ICCPR) but eligibility criteria for benefits mean that materially and culturally they may have no choice but to work. Grosvenor and Piggott see this as “a disjuncture between a liberal approach to the right to work and a more authoritarian approach located in the obligation to work” (249). Furthermore they argue that liberalisms pluralistic attitude to conceptions of the good should be employed so as to be value neutral about paid work. They argue that for liberals the right to work should be accompanied by the right not to work (250).


Rights are linked to the concept of citizenship. Increasingly rights have been linked to responsibilities, particularly in relation to social welfare. Successive welfare reforms have increased levels of conditionality accompanied by a rhetoric of ‘no rights without responsibilities’ (Giddens, 1998,p 65. Cited in Patrick and Fenney: 26). In the US theorists such as Lawrence Mead have portrayed conditionality as central to reciprocity “without which those in receipt of benefits cannot be seen as equal citizens” (Patrick and Fenney: 26). In the UK conditionality has been extended to increasing numbers of disabled people with the introduction of Employment and Support  Allowance. Owen, Gould and Parker Harris claim that the increasing linkage of rights and responsibilities changes who ‘qualifies’ as an equal citizen and globally changes to welfare policies have made participation in the workforce ‘the central tenet of citizenship’ given the barriers to work that disabled people face this is problematic. (Owen, Gould and Parker Harris, 2015: 130).


Universalising the Right to Work for people who are disabled

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was adopted in 2006, 40 years after the adoption of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICESCR). The ICESCR does not specifically mention disability, its rights are to be exercised without discrimination on the grounds of ‘race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status’ (preamble). Although such anti-discrimination provisions are broad enough to encompass disability, achieving equality and full participation for people who are disabled (PWD), conceptions of discrimination applicable for race and religion may not address the particular barriers that are faced by PWD. For the first time the CRPD makes it clear that the rights of disabled people are human rights, and this includes the Right to Work for PWD.

Article 6 and 7 of ICESCR had already created a right to work, which is a right to the opportunity to earn a living by undertaking decent work, in safe and healthy working conditions, with sufficient pay to support a family. Whilst it specifically mentions gender equality, it is silent on disability. It tasks State Parties with taking steps to realise the right to work through policies, techniques, guidance and programmes that secure full employment and access to employment.

What is different about the right under article 27 CRPD  is that it addresses employment discrimination against people who are disabled as a human rights issue and it specifically includes provisions that tackle direct and indirect discrimination against people who are disabled, permits positive discrimination in the form of affirmative action 27 (1) (h), promotes inclusion and accessibility 27 (1) and the introduces  the concept of ‘reasonable accommodation’ for people who are disabled (27 (1) (i).

The UK ratified the CRPD in 2009. At that time the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) was in force. The DDA already contained a provision for reasonable accommodation: the provisions on ‘reasonable adjustments’ which made a failure to make reasonable adjustments an act of discrimination. It also included ‘disability related discrimination’, a provision that became ineffective following the infamous case of London Borough of Lewisham v Malcolm [2008] UKHL 43.

According to Office for National Statistics. Labour Force Survey, Q2 2016; 2016, cited in the government Green Paper ‘Improving Lives The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper’ (2017: 4), only 48% of working aged PWD are employed compared with 80% of non-disabled people and PWD work in lower paid and part time work than non-disabled people. A situation the Green Paper describes as ‘an injustice we must address’ (2017: 5).

Despite legislation the human rights of PWD are not being respected. The Green Paper is a consultation document which sets out the state of affairs as it sees it and seeks views on how to redress this ‘injustice’. Disability Rights organisation consistently call for greater inclusion, for more support in work and when finding work. For example, Disability Rights UK is demanding increased funding for the Access to Work scheme, awareness raising about the scheme and greater transparency in how decisions on eligibility are made.

Certainly, work needs to be more inclusive. However, is it is necessary to create separate rights for people who are disabled? Would it be more productive, effective and inclusive to universalise these rights? Just as providing ramps and accessible buses has benefited the wider population, for example pram pushers, so the universalisation of reasonable accommodation for temporary or more minor impairments may benefit the world of work as a whole. PWD would not be seen as a special case, with the risk that employers would view them as more costly. Perhaps also the need to define people as ‘disabled’ may also diminish, and PWD would be removed from the burden of proving that their condition meets the legal definition of disability necessary to qualify for employment protection.

A case for universaling the right to work for PWD has been made by Einat Albin in ‘Universalising the Right to Work of Persons with Disabilities: An Equality and Dignity Based Approach’.

disability, economics and ICF

“From the viewpoint of health economics, ICF will help monitor and explain health care and other disability costs. Measuring functioning and disabilities will make it possible to quantify the productivity loss and its impact on the lives of the people in each society. The classification will also be of great use in the evaluation of intervention programmes” (ICF: 19).

ICF on the concept of disability

The ICF conceptualises disability and functioning as “outcomes of interactions between health conditions (diseases, disorders and injuries) and contextual factors” (ICF: 10)

“Among contextual factors are external environmental factors (for example, social attitudes, architectural characteristics, legal and social structures, as well as climate, terrain and so forth); and internal personal factors, which include gender, age, coping styles, social background, education, profession, past and current experience, overall behaviour pattern, character and other factors that influence how disability is experienced by the individual” (ICF: 10).

There are three levels of human functioning: body part, whole person, and person in social context (ICF: 10).

“Disability therefore involves dysfunctioning at one or more of these same levels: impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions” (ICF: 10).

“Impairments are problems in body function or structure such as a significant deviation or loss” (ICF: 10).

“Activity Limitations are difficulties an individual may have in executing activities” (ICF: 10).

“Participation Restrictions are problems an individual may experience in involvement in life situations” (ICF: 10).

Links are then made between disability and levels of functioning associated with a health condition. The example is given of a previously treated psychotic disorder (health condition) resulting in denial of employment due to prejudice (participation restriction) (ICF: 17)

Different levels of disability are then linked with different interventions, so that participation restrictions are dealt with by accommodations, anti-discrimination legislation, public education and universal designs (interventions) and Environmental change, Employment strategies, Accessible services, Universal design, and Lobbying for change (prevention). (ICF: 18)