Committee proposes Act prohibiting discrimination against disabled people

Sweden needs an act which prohibits discrimination in working life against people with disabilities, according to a report presented in December 1997 by an official committee.

At present, Sweden has no legislation expressly forbidding discrimination against people with disabilities in working life. For example, there is nothing preventing private employers from excluding job applicants with some form of disability with express reference to their disability, as they are in principle free to employ whomever they choose. On 3 December 1997 a committee appointed by the Government therefore proposed a new act prohibiting discrimination in working life against people with disabilities.

The ban on discrimination would be applicable throughout the whole process of hiring staff - that is when the employer takes in job applicants for interviews, when it makes the final decision to employ one of them and on any other measure which is taken during the employment process. Furthermore, the protection would apply when the employer takes decisions on promotion or chooses employees for training for promotion, when it sets wages and other terms of employment, when it takes management decisions, when it gives notice of termination of employment or otherwise takes measures that adversely affect an employee.

Both direct and indirect discrimination would be prohibited. Consequently, an employer could not treat a disabled person less favourably than he or she would treat another person in a similar situation, but employers would also have to refrain from using rules, criteria or procedures that are formally neutral but which in practice lead to disadvantages to a significantly larger proportion of persons with a particular disability compared to persons without these disabilities.

The committee points out that a disability can influence an individual's ability to carry out a special job. Thus, if the circumstances in the workplace mean that he or she does not have the same ability to carry out the job in question as most others have, there is no similar situation and no issue of discrimination, even if he or she otherwise has comparable qualifications. On the other hand, if the employer can create a similar situation within reasonable cost and effort, for example by providing technical devices or changing the physical environment or work organisation, it may be required to do so.

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