A Eurofound study shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in teleworking. More than a third of respondents to Eurofound’s online survey said that they started teleworking as a result of the pandemic.
Never before have so many people worked from home. However, there has been no such increase in numbers with respect to people with disabilities. The use of teleworking could, however, represent a huge step forward for their employment situation.
On 23 September 2020, Belgian Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Cindy Franssen of the Group of the European People’s Party, addressed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. MEP Franssen enquired “what initiatives does the Commission propose to promote teleworking in order to better involve people with disabilities in the labour market?” Because “higher levels of employment of persons with disabilities was one of the priorities of the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020”, the Belgian MEP also asked the Commission “what priority does it plan to accord to this in the new Disability Strategy?” and “does it plan to update the 2002 European Framework Agreement on telework to respond to the new reality and improve the inclusion in teleworking of people with disabilities?”
On 02 December, Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli responded on behalf of the European Commission and stated that “recent legislation on accessibility (Web Accessibility Directive, European Accessibility Act) promotes accessible products and services used in daily lives — websites and mobile apps of public services, phones, computers, payment terminals, banking services, audiovisual media, e-books and e-commerce, electronic communications, elements of public procurement and buildings”. She added that “these initiatives contribute to the inclusive and accessible development of teleworking for people with disabilities”.
Commissioner Dalli also reported that “the new Strategy on the rights of persons with disabilities is under preparation” and “while details are still subject to consultation, employment remains a very high priority to be addressed in the new strategy”. She further clarified that “the 2002 European Framework Agreement of social partners on telework is an autonomous agreement establishing their agreed definition of telework and setting up a general framework at European level for teleworkers’ working conditions to be implemented by their affiliates” and “the agreement, signed in 2002, was to be implemented within three years” and that “European social partners are responsible for the implementation of their agreement and for any possible revision they may wish to undertake”.
Finally, the Equality Commissioner asserted that “European cross-industry social partners adopted in June 2020 a new autonomous agreement on digitalisation covering, among others, issues related to the modalities of connecting and disconnecting” and “in its communication of 20 May 2020 on the European Semester, the Commission also promoted teleworking practices”.
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