More employment discrimination cases reported to Unia in 2017

6 June 2018
Area of action: Employment
Grounds of discrimination: RacismDisabilityReligious or philosophical beliefsAge

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.

More employment discrimination cases reported to Unia in 2017

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.

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12 March 2018

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.