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What is being done for the disabled?

16.07.2007
Autor: Magdalena Gajda, tłumaczenie: Kinga Szemraj
Źródło: dodatek Praca nr 3/2007

logo dodatku Praca

A telephone conversation performed on January 23rd, 2007.

- Good morning. I’m a journalist of the “Praca” magazine, appendix to the “Integracja” magazine. I would like to know if you employ any disabled persons?
- Our company is managed according to the principle of Corporate Social Responsibility. Five disabled persons work here.
- And how many employees are there in your company?
- More than 100 persons.
- Do you know that in case of such a big staff, employment of 6% disabled persons is a law requirement and not your goodwill?
- Well... yes.
- And Corporate Social Responsability is an action beyond the law obligations?
- That’s right.
- So where is that CSR?

The abbreviation CSR of an English expression Corporate Social Responsibility is more and more often used by the Polish businessmen. Even more gladly it is used by the public relations experts whose aim is to create the favorable company image – which is the one that makes clients to be interested in its products or services. Since CSR means higher, more modern culture of management. CSR is a voluntary involvement of a company to every action geared towards profit and to relations with clients and contracting parties, also to the tasks geared towards the social development and environment protection.

The concept of CSR was born in the 1970s, when many international corporations were accused of numerous abuses – including contribution in the environment degradation and using children at an assembly line. That is when the richest countries of the world associated in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) created special code of ethics for the business conduction. Furthermore in 1999 under the auspices of the UN a new group called “Global Compact" came into being which appealed to the business representatives to improve the situation of the poorest, obey the human and employee rights, protect the environment and counteract of corruption.

Business empathy

Elaborating on the definition of CSR, a company “social responsible” is the one that among other things involves in different social campaigns, is guided in its actions by the internal code of ethics, creates reports on social phenomena, voluntarily introduces quality, safety, environmental protection systems and in many ways supports the local communities in which it functions. To make it simpler, a responsible businessman shows on the labels of the products an information that already at the stage of testing they were created with the full respect of animal rights or asks the employees to reuse the paper printed on one side.
In 2006 the Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS) performed for the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) a survey on the understanding of the concept of social responsibility by the Polish businessmen. For more than 500 enterprises that took part in the survey, as many as 60% of the big and 40% of the small ones considered social needs and economical issues worth taking into account during the business activity.

The list of CSR native practices is already quite vast. Polish business organizes specialist conferences, courses, lectures, pro-health actions (e.g. Servier, Novartis), makes technologies available without charge (e.g. BP concern places sun batteries on schools) and even hands over its products (e.g. IKEA). Many companies consult, advise, train, eliminate mental and architecture barriers by charity (e.g. Statoil on petrol stations). Philip Morris Polska PLC (tobacco concern) to every donation made by its employee adds the same amount of money, ERA promotes among its clients returning old, used up mobile telephones for recycling, Microsoft popularizes information technologies among children, teenagers, teachers and social groups at risk from so called “digital divide” – e.g. long-term unemployed persons. Soon thanks to “Responsible Business in Poland 2006. Good examples” report prepared by the Responsible Business Forum we would be able to become convinced how many companies have joined the circle of “social responsible”.

Who has to and who wants to employ the disabled persons?

Nobody denies that offering job to the disabled is a noble and worth imitating idea. But can every businessman in Poland in all conscience to other employees, business partners and clients place in his promotion brochures such sentence: “My company is social responsible, because we employ the disabled persons”?

The key to full understanding the essence of CSR is the word “voluntary”. The certain company on its free will subsidizes the activity of hospitals, organizes school trips, brings to the country the world-known artists’ paintings. There’s no public institution or non-government organization to make the company to do it. In no way the Polish law forces it as well.

Meanwhile according to the “Act on professional and social rehabilitation and the disabled persons employment”, every enterprise in Poland employing more than 25 persons has a duty (!) to employ 6% of the disabled persons. In case it doesn’t take place, for every position unfilled, the enterprise has to pay a fine for the National Fund for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled (PFRON). Therefore a social responsible company could be the one that doesn’t have to but employs the disabled persons or offers them more jobs than is required by law. Could be if not... the money.

A job for a disabled with considerable...

This kind of job offers are placed in the newspapers not only by the sheltered workshops. The reason for which it is done by the open market employers as well, is very simple. A disabled employee is for some of them just a “good business”. A person that draws a pension and wants to keep it – which is most of the cases – will not ask for a better wage. An employment of a disabled person means subsidizing by the state his wage, national insurance, post equipment and training courses. And the best money the company gets when the employee would show his certificate of moderate or considerable disability.

Hearing such arguments many employers would be indignant about the poor support, complicated procedures, disabled employee working only 7 hours a day and when using all his concessions, e.g. additional holidays, making more problems than benefits.

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen... Why in such case you employ the disabled persons using the state subsidies? If you look for a professional without paying attention to the fact if he lives in a wheelchair and not “a man with a certificate” and employ him without any profits from subsidies, then you could say: we are a social responsible company. That’s what CSR is – actions that do not enrich the company bank account, but add some warm colours to its image.

Rebels in a good cause

I am a rebel though I understand that before to the minds of Polish businessmen who sometimes hardly remain in their business line gets a simple truth that “the disabled are able to work”, still a better argument would be the financial one than the social or ethical. I am a rebel, but I have even more respect for those doing something else for the disabled than just employing them.

I still hope that by my and others rebellion the “disabled” would be “rightful” [a play of words in the original version] employees of the companies and citizens of this country. I believe that when in some time I would conduct a similar talk to the one at the beginning of this article and ask a businessman, why he employs the physically or mentally disabled persons, he would reply with an astonishment: “Surely not for the money. Haven’t you heard of the Corporate Social Responsibility? And it won’t be a British, but Polish businessman.

HENRYKA BOCHNIARZ, the President of the Polish Confederation of Private Employers Lewiatan
Corporate Social Responsibility is an active involvement of the companies to the life of the society inside which they function. The members of such societies are also the disabled persons. Creating job positions for them means equalizing their chances on the job market but also influencing the whole society – e.g. reduction of the jobless amount. So far low level of the professionally active disabled was explained by the lack of knowledge among the Polish businessmen about the possibilities of such persons employment. Good practices in this area were limited to the elimination of the architectural barriers. The concept of CSR may be a perfect carrier for propagating the ideas of the disabled persons employment, but also other activities for the professional mobilization of this social group. PCPE Lewiatan is absorbed in the projects promoting the employment of the disabled on the open market – in many our companies the disabled persons already work. We observe the effects of such campaigns. The employers have better and better consciousness of the profits that may be brought to the their company by a disabled employee – and it’s not the state subsidy.

***

Artykuł powstał w ramach projektu "Integracja - Praca. Wydawnicza kampania informacyjno-promocyjna"
współfinansowanego z Europejskiego Funduszu Społecznego w ramach Sektorowego Programu Operacyjnego Rozwój Zasobów Ludzkich.

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