§ Mr. Carter-Jones
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what action he is taking to enforce the 3 per cent. rule for the employment of disabled workers; how many prosecutions have been taken under the appropriate legislation; what was the number of offending firms; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Jim Lester
It is not an offence for an employer to have less than the 3 per cent. quota of registered disabled people. However, employers in this situation have certain obligations concerning the recruitment and retention of registered disabled workers. Infringement of these obligations is an offence under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944 and details of prosecutions under the Act were given on 12 659W November in my reply to the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field).—[Vol. 973, c. 497–8.]
I am advised by the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) that an annual inquiry is made of employers subject to quota, that is, those with 20 or more workers, to determine their quota positions. Those employing less than 3 per cent. of registered disabled people are reminded of their obligations under the 1944 Act. The Act requires employers subject to quota to keep records, which are liable to inspection by officers authorised by the MSC. MSC's disablement resettlement officers are able to advise employers about the recruitment and retention of both registered and unregistered disabled people.
Quota figures only reflect the employment of a minority of disabled people—those who choose to register and are employed in firms subject to quota. The number of registered disabled people is now insufficient to enable all employers subject to quota to satisfy the 3 per cent., although the majority of such employers would probably do so if all their disabled workers could be counted. The present quota scheme is therefore no longer fully effective as a method of protecting the employment prospects of disabled people generally. The MSC is therefore to review the scheme next year, and is at present considering comments on future policy options, expressed by a wide range of interested organisations and individuals in response to a discussion document which was issued in May.
In the meantime, the MSC will continue to emphasise the importance of giving full and fair consideration in all aspects of employment to disabled people, whether registered or unregistered, in particular through its current "Fit for Work" campaign and award scheme, the response to which has so far been encouraging.