DISABLED Bahrainis are set to have their working hours slashed under an amendment approved by the Shura Council yesterday, despite fears it could make them harder to employ.
Council members unanimously voted in favour of the amendment to the Care, Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons Law of 2006, which will grant disabled people working in the private and government sectors and those taking care of disabled family members two hours off work each day.
The amendment, originally proposed by MPs, has already been approved by parliament but was opposed by the Education and Labour ministries and Civil Service Bureau on the grounds that it could effectively make disabled people unemployable.
The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry backed the amendment, but stressed that it would have to be clarified through clear by-laws to avoid misuse.
Labour Ministry assistant under-secretary for labour affairs Dr Mohammed Al Ansari said the amendment to the law would mean that employers in the private sector might shun the disabled because of the increased financial burden involved in employing them.
"The amendment is dangerous as it means that employers would terminate existing employment contracts with the disabled - especially females who are already given two hours for baby care daily - because the work they did wouldn't add up to their pay," said Dr Al Ansari.
Shura Council woman and child committee chairwoman Rabab Al Arrayedh hit back that the ministry's concerns were unrealistic because there were already quotas in place forcing major companies to employ a certain number of disabled people.
"There are no disabled Bahrainis working in small and medium enterprises, so I don't see any damage to the workforce, as most are working in major companies that have thousands of employees," she said.
"Since that's the case, whether the disabled work six or eight hours it wouldn't make a difference - employers would have to allocate a certain percentage of disabled people in line with the ministry's regulations, according to the total number of their staff."
Bahrain Mobility International president and council member Muneera Bin Hindi thanked her colleagues, adding that she hoped another amendment to the law that would see monthly aid for the disabled increased from BD100 to BD150 wins their approval.
The working hours amendment will be now ratified by His Majesty King Hamad.