In India most companies do not collect data on employees with disability. Even if they do, it is quite ad hoc or even inappropriate.
Let me explain it with a real story of a multinational company in India.
As per the Fire Audit requirements, database of employees with disabilities should be maintained by the Security team.
Since, there was no official database in the company, the receptionist was given the task to see who all seem to have a disability and note down their names.
That’s how they prepared the database of people with disabilities working in the office.
We came to know about it during an audit when an employee (who walks with a slight limp) shared her story and how she felt stalked by the security guards. She could not understand it initially. She was new to the company. She realised that the security guards were keeping an eye on her. She asked her colleagues if they had similar experience. They said no. She realised that she was the only one who was being followed. She got very worried and confronted the guard. The guard then told her quite reluctantly that every time the security guard changed shift, as per the rule, the guard should locate all the employees on their list to see if they are present and where they were and mark it on the list. Her name was on the list and so they noted her whereabouts so that they can help her at the time of emergency. She was furious to hear this. She didn’t even need any assistance for evacuation! Nobody asked her before adding her name on the list.
This is not the story of one company. If you ask the security in most companies, this is how they collect data on disability to comply with fire safety norms which are taken very seriously! Companies are yet to have a proper system to collect data regarding employees with disabilities. Many are very hesitant as they are not sure how to collect the data in a sensitive manner.
Now, the law clearly states that data should be collected on employees with disabilities.
Clause 22 (1) of The RPWD Act mandates that
“Every establishment shall maintain records of the persons with disabilities in relation to the matter of employment, facilities provided and other necessary information in compliance with the provisions of this Chapter in such form and manner as may be prescribed by the Central Government.”
Though the rules state on what aspects that data should be collected like name, gender, nature of disability etc., it does not mention when and how this data should be collected.
There has always been a question if a company could collect information about disability at the application stage for employment. It is also seen that if a person mentions her/his disability in her/his CV, then her/his chance of getting an interview call is very low. Also, it is illegal in many countries to ask questions like age, gender, disability, medical conditions, marital status, etc. at the application/interview stage.
Let’s look at what is legal/ illegal in India
The law does not specifically prohibit collection of information about disability at pre-employment stage. However, it mandates non-discrimination. Hence, questions related to disability should not be asked at the application /interview time.
At the same time, based on our experience, people working as diversity /persons with disability leads/managers in the company would like data on number of people with disabilities applied, numbers hired, reasons for rejection etc. This is a crucial information to monitor that there has been no discrimination and also for planning any affirmative action programmes like pre-employment training, etc.
In UK, there is a provision to collect information of disability in the application stage but in a separate form for the purpose of monitoring.
Even in the US, under the Affirmative Action Program, private companies seeking to work/supply to US Government should collect data on number of people with disabilities who apply.
Learning from these experiences, we recommend the following for data collection on persons with disability by establishments:
- At the application stage, information about person’s disability should be collected in a separate form and the purpose of it should only be for monitoring (i.e. to later analyse as to how many people with disabilities applied, how many hired and reasons for rejection (to ensure non discrimination) and for planning any affirmative action programmes to enhance representation of people with disabilities in the company).
- After the offer has been made, more questions can be added including information regarding any support that they may need during emergency etc.
- Everyone should be asked to fill the form, not just people who mention disability on their CV or those who are visibly disabled. However, It should be a voluntary disclosure. There should be a option for those who do not wish to answer. Those who decide not to identify themselves as having disability, they should not be penalised. They can decide to share about their disability at any time.
- The data collected (at pre/post employment) should be strictly confidential. Access to the data should be given only to the Liaison officer (person monitoring the implementation/compliance of the RPWD Act in the company). There may be certain exceptions, where the information would be given to the manager if certain flexibility in work training is required or to security if the person needs any assistance for evacuation, etc. These have to be stated quite clearly in the policy/ process for data collection. They should also ensure confidentiality of the information.
- Ensure visibility of company’s equal opportunity policy and give the contact details of the Liaison officer so that people with disabilities feel confident to share the information and also seek any accommodations that they need.
Please reach out to us if you have any queries or if you need help in putting together the policy and process for self identification of people with disabilities.