India: Businesses Must Prepare to Comply With New Disability Act

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By Madhur Singh

The Indian government is expected to announce rules to implement a new disability rights law enacted in late 2016 that requires private businesses to develop an equal employment opportunity policy, register it with the Commissioner for Persons with Disability and provide barrier-free access in buildings, transport systems and all other kinds of infrastructure.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 came into force Dec. 27, replacing the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, and providing recognition to 19 conditions instead of the seven disabilities specified previously.

The act aims to bring Indian legislation into conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The law will become effective once rules are framed and announced. Although no official timeline has been released, legal practitioners in contact with government officials say an announcement is likely after the current session of parliament ends April 12.

Private Sector Covered

Regulating the private sector for the first time, the new law requires businesses to draft and release an equal opportunity policy detailing measures they propose to take and to file a copy of this policy with the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities at the federal or state level, whichever applies. Federal or state governments may provide incentives to private-sector employers to ensure that at least 5 percent of their workforces are composed of persons with benchmark disabilities (defined as 40 percent of any of the 19 recognized conditions).

In addition, businesses must maintain records for disabled employees covering terms of employment, accommodations provided and other information the government may require “in such form and manner as may be prescribed by the Central Government.”

Employment exchanges must maintain records of persons with disabilities seeking employment, and employers must inform exchanges of any current or potential vacancies for persons with benchmark disabilities.

The new law stipulates a penalty of 10,000 rupees ($153) for the first failure to comply with the act and 50,000 to 500,000 rupees ($766 to $7,662) for subsequent violations. The previous law had no provisions for penalties.

Penalties could apply to “every person who at the time the offense was committed was in charge of and was responsible to the company for the conduct of the business of the company” unless they can prove the offense was committed without their knowledge or that they had exercised due diligence to prevent commission of the offense.

To contact the reporter on this story: Madhur Singh in Chandigarh at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

For More Information

Full text of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 is available here .

For more information on Indian HR law and regulation, see the India primer.

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