In light of job losses, persons with disabilities are banking their hopes on the recently assented to Persons with Disabilities Act 2019 to ensure they remain in employment.
As Ugandan businesses continue to struggle with the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 75% of employees have been laid off employees as of May 2020, according to a survey by the Economic Policy Research Centre.
Also, about 20 million jobs are at risk according to the study -The impact of the coronavirus on the Africa economy by the African Union.
In light of job losses, Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) are banking their hopes on the recently assented to Persons with Disabilities Act 2019 to ensure they remain in employment unlike in the previous law.
The Persons with Disabilities Act 2006 stated: "The Private employers who employ ten or more persons with disabilities either as regular employees, apprentice or learner on a full-time basis shall be entitled to a tax deduction of 15% of all payable tax upon proof to the Uganda Revenue Authority."
"There remain glaring gaps in disability inclusion across all sectors. Many persons with disabilities live in absolute poverty," says Edson Ngirabakunzi Chief Executive Officer, National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU).
Of the 5 million (12.5%) persons living with disabilities across Uganda, 7.9% are male, and 9.1% are female between the age of 18 to 30, while 25.8% are male, and 34.3% female between the ages of 31 to 64.
From this number only 9,122 (1.3%) are employed by the formal sector, according to a 20I9 study by TRAC FM, a social change agent that uses SMS for polling at radio stations in Uganda. It says fair representation would imply that at least 10% of government jobs are filled by people with disabilities which is currently, at only 1%.
The new Persons with Disabilities Act 2019, was assented to by the President before coronavirus (COVID-19) disease swept in, reveals the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development spokesperson Frank Mugabi.
As an incentive, the act says an employer who employs persons with disability shall be allowed deductions of up to 10% on the chargeable income as may be provided for in the Income Tax Act.
"It means that if a company's income is supposed to be taxed if it employs persons with a disability it will save 10% which was to be taxed from their income. It is a lot of money saved for companies that earn in billions," says Mugabi.
However, the new law is yet to get regulations by the ministry to guide its implementation. "It must be aligned and implemented with the provision of the Income Tax Act, of which the Ministry of Finance and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) will take charge," says Mugabi.
The Member of Parliament for persons with disabilities eastern region Grace Asamo says the new law brings government at the centre stage of responsibility, in ensuring PWDs are employed.
Other institutions including statehouse, electoral commission and parliament started hiring PWDs even though the number is still countable.
"Even private sector employers should take responsibility with the new law in place," says Asamo.
She adds that for government institutions to get the Gender and Equity Certificate, the equal opportunities commission should also have verified and approved that they have employed PWDs and the same should apply for the private sector.
According to Mugabi, the new law also offers a special grant for persons with disabilities. "The budget was increased and we created a new stream of funding. All they have to do is create a group of 5-15 people to access sh15 million grant to start a venture that will empower them economically," he says.
Mugabi says vetting is done by the sub-county and district leaders and once a group is cleared, the ministry will channel the money directly to their account.
The special grant is in addition to the persons with disability grant sent to the districts.
Asamo says in addition to the special grants, the new presidential Initiative on wealth and Job creation worth over sh100 billion will also benefit PWDs working in groups to invest, earn money and uplift their economic status amid employment difficulty.