More employment discrimination cases reported to Unia in 2017
Last year Unia opened a total of 2,017 cases of situations where people felt they were the subject of discrimination. This represents a 6% increase over 2016 (1,907 cases). Instances of employment discrimination were the most frequently opened cases at Unia. This trend illustrates that the labour market still focuses too often on traditional profiles and thus reflects inequalities in society as a whole. Despite a few legislative improvements, Unia is raising the alarm.
Across the board the number of cases opened at Unia went up 6%. ‘In total Unia opened 2,017 cases last year’, says Unia director Els Keytsman. ‘What stands out is that the strongest increase occurred in the category of Work and Employment Opportunities. In that particular field, we opened 572 cases, up by 13.5% on the previous year’.
Most of these cases concerned 'racial' criteria (27%), followed by disability (20.7%) and age (15.7%).
Keytsman says Unia is contacted most about employment opportunities. 'Judging by these figures, the tensions within mainstream society are clearly finding their way into the workplace and access to employment. Our key message is that, just as in society as whole, the employment world revolves around a standard profile. If you don’t fit that profile, there is a bigger risk of discrimination, bullying or exclusion. It’s easier to find a job if you are in the right age bracket (25 to 45), if you are white and if you are in good health. What happens otherwise? You have to prove yourself and at the same time you are more likely to encounter discrimination’.
Focus on 'health status' criterion
Unia marked up a significant increase in the number of reported cases concerning health status in 2017. ‘This criterion ranks fourth along with religion and beliefs,’ says Keytsman. ‘This too is significant. We’re receiving more and more reports about hostile or demeaning behaviour, and even dismissal following a legitimate request for reasonable changes or after periods of absence due to illness’.
‘Prolonged absence due to illness is something that can happen to anybody. You can't use it to justify employees being set aside, receiving comments and sometimes even being dismissed ', she emphasises.
Unia reacts to the report on discrimination by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA)
Out of all survey-respondents of North African and Turkish origin who experienced discrimination in the past year in Belgium, 20% said it had occurred on the job market, while the European average on this point is 12%. This figure was brought to Unia’s attention in the Second EU-MIDIS report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).
Court describes effects of cancer as disability for the first time
An employer should have made adaptations to enable a woman who was unable to work for a long time due to cancer to continue doing her job, according to a ruling by the Brussels Labour Court. This is the first time that a court has recognised the lasting effects of cancer as a disability. The judge ordered the employer to pay 12,500 euros in compensation to the employee for discrimination. Unia acted as intervener in the case.
The Achbita case before the court again
‘The Achbita case must be retried. The Court of Cassation has overturned the previous ruling of the Antwerp labour court because it inadequately examined whether Ms Achbita’s dismissal was discriminatory,’ Unia says.
Supermarket convicted of racism in dismissal
The store manager of the Intermarché in Klabbeek was guilty of racism when he dismissed a black employee. That was the ruling of the criminal court of Walloon Brabant. The manager dismissed the man because some customers ‘didn’t want to be served by a black person’. Unia was a civil claimant.