News - March 26, 2020

‘We think in terms of capacities’ - More colleages with functional impairments

Tessa Louwerens

WUR has a new team that is going to work on offering more jobs to people with a functional impairment: Job Participation Support, or ‘jops’ for short. The goal is to have at least 230 participation jobs in 2024. Resource talked to team members Els Dieleman and Cor Meurs.

The jops team, from left: Cor Meurs, Els Dieleman, Petra Krop and Ann-Marie Ryan.

text Tessa Louwerens photo Sjoerd Schimmel

Why was your team formed?

Dieleman: ‘WUR places importance on employing more people with a functional impairment. Not just because of the legally required quota [see inset, ed.] but also because WUR wants to be an inclusive organization. In recent years we have not managed to attract enough candidates, because it is quite complicated, and that includes the rules and regulations. That can be difficult for HR advisors who don’t work on it every day. Because we’ll be working on it as a team from now on, we can build up more expertise and a network, and support the organization optimally in this.’

How are you going to go about it?

Meurs: ‘We look for candidates through the Employers’ Service Point (a database of the Employee Insurance Agency UWV) and check whether any of them match our internal vacancies. And we also investigate the scope for creating suitable jobs, for example by allocating particular tasks to team members. Examples could be archiving, search work or invigilating exams. It is important to ensure continuity, it’s not about odd jobs (at this stage).’

Dieleman: ‘We look at candidates in terms of their capacities and not their limitations: often someone can do a job just as well as anyone else, but might need a quiet workplace or a shorter working day. This way of searching – starting from the person rather than the job description – still has to take root in the organization.’

Will there be job adverts for participation jobs?

Dieleman: ‘You are not allowed to state in a job advert that you are looking for someone with a functional impairment, because that would be discrimination. On WUR’s vacancy site, there is a sentence at the top of the page inviting people with a functional impairment to apply. And as a rule we also mentioned jops in each job advert. We are talking to the WUR recruiters about making the job descriptions more inviting and accessible for our target group. At present, the bar is set very high and the requirements for the job are set at the maximum. It doesn’t feel as though we are prepared to make adjustments, to working hours for instance.’

Who are the candidates?

Meurs: ‘We tend to think of functional impairment as meaning someone in a wheelchair. But it is much broader than that. In fact, a wheelchair doesn’t in itself constitute a functional impairment. It might be a matter of being able to work a limited number of hours: someone who can do the job fine, but only for a maximum of 16 hours a week. It’s not just about support staff roles either. We get candidates with university degrees for whom we might try to find jobs as researchers or teachers.’

Dieleman: ‘Most of them are young people. Students who end up on social security after graduating, and who later turn out to have a functional impairment, maybe due to psychological problems. We work with Student Career Services to point students towards the Target Groups Register [see inset, ed.] to increase their chances of a job.’

The goal is 230 jobs in 2024. Is that feasible?

Meurs: ‘We started in November. Up to now we have created 38 jobs and another 11 people are working on secondment from the sheltered workshop they have been working at.’

Dieleman: ‘We expect that the number of jobs will increase as soon as jops becomes better known. The pool of candidates is pretty full, in any case. And it is very likely that the legislation will be simplified, so that socially responsible outsourcing, for grounds management and cleaning for instance, counts as well. But there is still a lot to be done.’

We tend to think of functional impairment as meaning someone in a wheelchair

Isn't it very expensive or a lot of work to hire someone via jops?

Dieleman: ‘If people with a functional impairment are in the right job and participate fully, everyone benefits. There is a shortage of labour and work pressure is high in the organization: by bringing together tasks that don’t get done in a new job, you kill two birds with one stone.’

Meurs: ‘Jops ensures good preparation and support, and that any necessary adjustments at the workplace are made. And every new member of staff costs a bit more time at the start. It won’t make any extra demands on a department’s budget: from 2020 all WUR units will contribute to this form of participation in the labour market. The employee works for the unit and behind the scenes, while their salary is paid by jops.’

Why is WUR investing so much in this?

Dieleman: ‘Apart from the legal requirements, it is important that WUR promotes a sense of community. We all have limitations that can affect us. We need to be aware that we could be a bit more tolerant and that we should look after each other. A functional impairment can happen to anyone. And then it is nice to know that you work for an organization that has a good attitude to that.

It is also impressive to see how motivated these employees are. Most of them are young people who wouldn’t get a job by the standard route. A Works Council member expressed it well: “We don’t recruit a special group, we recruit them in a special way.”

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To help people with a functional impairment get jobs, the Dutch government drew up the Job Agreement Act (part of the Social Agreement), which said that a total of 125,000 ‘participation jobs’ should be created between 2013 and 2026, with 25,000 jobs in the public and semi-public sectors. Municipalities or the UWV decide who qualifies for this kind of job. These people are included in the Target Groups Register. Because the goal for 2026 for the government sector is very unlikely to be reached, quota legislation was introduced in 2018. This requires employers to make a certain percentage of their jobs participation jobs. For WUR that currently means 229.5 participation jobs. Els Dieleman, Job Participation Support project leader at WUR: ‘In WUR’s case, we expect serious growth in the next few years, so the number of participation jobs will go up beyond that number.’ A participation job is equivalent to 25.5 hours a week. Employers who do not reach their quota will pay a fine of 5000 euros per job that is lacking, as of 2022.