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Around the World: Disability Law Changes

HR Column

According to the World Bank, 15 percent of the world’s population (one billion people) experience some form of disability with 110-190 million people experiencing significant disabilities. Disability laws continue to evolve around the world. We recently examined the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on websites in the United States. Now let’s examine disability laws in different countries around the world.


There are three paths to eligibility in China’s pension scheme: 1) old age; 2) disability; and 3) survivorship. Provincial and local governments establish the minimum pension thresholds based on the local standard of living. Medical experts from the Labor Ability Appraisal Committee determine the degree of disability needed to be eligible for the Chinese disability pension. To be eligible for the Chinese disability pension, a worker who does not qualify for an early social insurance old age pension must be found to be totally disabled. The disability benefit pays out 40 percent of the insured's average monthly wage in the previous year.

The sickness benefit covers temporary disability, providing 60 to 100 percent of the insured’s last monthly wage for up to six months each year. Thereafter, the sickness benefit pays 40 to 60 percent until the employee recovers or is determined to be permanently disabled.

European Union


The Nano Nagle v. Daly (2019) IESC 63 Supreme Court decision is important in the European Union because it provides clarity in identifying principles employers should consider when determining the scope of reasonable accommodation for disabled employees in compliance with Section 16 of the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 (EEAs).

[Related: Around the World: Employment Law Changes]

The Nano Nagle School in southwestern Ireland teaches children on the autistic spectrum who have mild to profound disabilities. An employee and special needs assistant, Marie Daly, was severely injured in an accident while on vacation. The accident paralyzed her from the waist down. She received extensive rehabilitation, then sought to resume her employment. After undertaking an assessment, the school board denied permission for Daly to return to work.

Although the Supreme Court remanded the case to the Labor Court for a full rehearing, it indicated that although an employer should adhere to the various elements of the reasonable accommodation test (e.g., a complex construct under the EEA), it does not have to create a new role for a legally disabled employee. Employers should distinguish between essential and nonessential duties and establish measures that can reasonably accommodate the employee in carrying out the role. These considerations can be balanced against the burden and cost of such accommodation in light of the employer’s scale and financial resources, and the potential availability of public funding or other assistance.


France has among the more generous disability benefits in Europe. Companies with more than 20 staff members must have at least six percent of their workforce consist of people with disabilities. Calculation of disability benefits depend the extent of the employee’s disability. For example, an employee who is 100 percent disabled receives 100 percent of the insured's annual reference earnings, based on total earnings in the last 12 months, up to a maximum, plus 33.33 percent of earnings exceeding the maximum threshold. An additional amount is paid if the employee requires the constant attendance of support people to work. Different calculations are used in the case of partial disability. Benefits are revised each January based on fluctuations in the consumer price index.

Parents caring for a disabled child are eligible for additional support, which includes assistance with caregiver and education costs. Housing benefits are also available.


Disability benefits vary based on the extent of an individual’s disability. If they contributed to social security for at least five years, workers can claim full disability and receive healthcare at no extra cost if they cannot work more than three hours per day. If they can work three to six hours per day, they are considered partially disabled. At normal retirement age (65) the disability pension is replaced by the old-age pension, which must be at least equal to the disability pension.

Disabled children are covered under their parents’ insurance. Employers are incentivized with tax breaks to employ workers with disabilities. The government offers home modification, housing benefits, home care assistance, and free public transportation to people with disabilities.


If a worker has contributed to the social security scheme for at least five years — including three of the last five years before the claim — he or she is eligible to receive disability benefits for total and permanent disability based on a loss of 66.7 percent working capacity. The disability benefit cannot be supplemented by any other income, such as earnings from self-employment and unemployment benefits.

[Related: 4 Ways to Actually Increase In-house Diversity]

Italy has several tiers of permanent disability benefits, including a program called the Notional [sic] Defined Contribution (NDC) and social insurance system. NDC contributions are adjusted annually based on the average rate of increase in gross domestic product during the last five years, and an actuarial coefficient that varies according to the insured's age. Social insurance is based on the insured's average annual earnings during the last five years, the number of contributions (up to 40 years), and a coefficient that varies according to the level of annual earnings.

In an effort to alleviate poverty and unemployment, earlier this year, Italy’s populist government unveiled the “citizen’s income” — a new minimum income welfare program that provides eligible citizens with prepaid debit cards to pay for expenses such as groceries, pharmaceuticals, utility bills, and rent. According to Italy’s national statistics bureau, of the 2.7 million people expected to benefit from the program, an estimated 1.8 million are not considered able-bodied to work.

South Africa

Workers between ages 18 to 59 are potentially eligible for a disability grant if they have been deemed temporarily disabled for more than six months through a medical assessment. A means test calculates annual income eligibility, decreasing the available benefit for higher income wage earners. Workers may also receive a constant-attendance allowance if they need the constant attendance of helpers to perform daily functions. Permanently disabled individuals are eligible for a maximum monthly grant and a constant-attendance allowance.

About the Author

Spiwe L. JeffersonSpiwe L. Jefferson is chief counsel of ChristLight Productions Ltd., patron fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and governance committee chair of the board of The BrandLab. She is a member of the ACC Employment and Labor, Law Department Management, and Litigation Networks.

The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.