In the previous work groups, our goals were aimed at the upbringing and education of people with autism across the entire vertical, but since the purpose and goal of the upbringing and education of young people is the acquisition of competences for independent life and employment, we believe that it is essential to also address employers and include them in our project.
First, we made a recording of the current situation regarding the employment of people with autism in Slovenia
Snapshot of the legislation in the field of employment of people with autism in the Republic of Slovenia: In the Republic of Slovenia, the legislation on the rights of people with autism is not defined by a special law, but as part of the legislation that also regulates the rights of other people with disabilities and special needs. In the Republic of Slovenia, people with autism have the same rights to employment as everyone else. Fundamental rights in relation to employment are guaranteed in Slovenia by the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. People with autism are not specifically defined in the legislation on employment of the disabled and other vulnerable groups (Brecelj, Demšar, Zovko and Bratuš, 2020). In the Republic of Slovenia, we know several disability statuses, which are obtained in various procedures and through various institutions. It is important to emphasize that all statuses are equal in terms of the quota system and the incentives it brings.
Act on the Employment Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities (ZZRZI) (enables the employment of people with autism in supportive employment, protective employment, in the normal labour market and employment in social inclusion programs in the event of a decision on unemployability)
Pension and Disability Insurance Act (ZPIZ-2)
Personal Assistance Act (ZOA)
- Act on the Social Inclusion of the Disabled (ZSVI)
The aforementioned laws regulate the rights and support in employment of people with permanent impairments or the consequences of a physical or mental illness, due to which these people have significantly lower chances of employment. In order to solve the employment problem of people with autism, in addition to the Act on Employment Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons, the Act on Social Inclusion of Disabled Persons is also important – this law enables the employment of people with autism who have such a severe form of maladaptive behaviour that it prevents them from living independently and obtaining funds for livelihood; and the Act on Pension and Disability Insurance – according to it, people with autism are entitled to rights from the law on the basis of disability and other statutory conditions. People with autism who have an associated intellectual disability can participate in training as part of the so-called social welfare service – Employment under special conditions, and those with the most severe disabilities can work in small groups with a work instructor. In this case, you can contact the competent Center for Social Work for more information.
Social welfare services are regulated by the Social Welfare Act. Within the framework of the Resolution on the National Social Welfare Program for the period 2022-2030 (ReNPSV22-30), it is estimated that in 2020, there were 3,617 people who were included in the service, including people with autism.
Management, protection, and employment under special conditions is an organized form of protection that fulfils the basic human rights of adults with disabilities to a service that gives these people, in accordance with their abilities, the possibility of active integration into social life and the working environment and performing useful work, suitable to their disabilities. The services are organized and implemented in such a way that they enable users to maintain acquired knowledge and expand new knowledge and work skills, acquire new social and work habits, realize their own ideas and creativity, and stimulate a sense of usefulness and self-affirmation. The service also provides other forms of protection that enable users and their families to engage in work and social activities.
Beneficiaries of the service are: adults with intellectual disabilities and adults with multiple disabilities.
For people with autism, the regulated status of a disabled person in the Republic of Slovenia brings opportunities in terms of certain rights.
In Slovenia, the employment of people with autism with the status of disabled is systematically regulated in the Act on Employment Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons. With employment rehabilitation services, employment rehabilitation providers provide holistic treatment and assistance to people who have problems finding employment due to disability. Within the scope of the Act on Employment Rehabilitation and Employment of the Disabled, people with autism also have the opportunity to try out a specific job, learn certain work skills and abilities through the process of training at a specific workplace and other employment rehabilitation services (psychosocial rehabilitation through the process of assessment of working capabilities, within the framework of which a decision on supportive employment, protective employment or a decision on unemployability is issued).
People who do not have enough working experience, have not yet been employed or have only been employed for a short time and have problems with employment (including people with autism) can arrange their status as disabled under the Employment Rehabilitation Act. For more information, you can contact the competent Employment Agency of the Republic of Slovenia and submit an application for employment rehabilitation services. Employment rehabilitation is regulated by the Act on Employment Rehabilitation and Employment of the Disabled (hereinafter ZZRZI). The law enables the provision of services for both employed and unemployed people. The implementation of employment rehabilitation is defined as a public service within the network of providers. There are 12 contractors in Slovenia that have been granted a concession by the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs for the implementation of employment rehabilitation, namely:
- Centerkontura d.o.o.,
- CRI Celje d.o.o.,
- Company of the disabled Posočje d.o.
- Ozara service and disability company d.o.o.
- Papilot Institute for Encouraging and Developing the Quality of Life,
- Racio, company for the development of the human capital, d.o.o.
- Šentprima − Institute for counseling, training and rehabilitation of the disabled,
- Zavod Jelša − Center for Education, Training and Rehabilitation,
- Institute Ruj,
- Zavod Vitis − Center for Education, Training and Rehabilitation,
- ZIP center d.o.o., Company for production, services, training and employment of disabled people, Želva d.o.o. and
- 1 public institution – University Rehabilitation Institute of the Republic of Slovenia – SOČA (Network of rehabilitation providers for the period 2014−2020, 2020).
According to the ZZRZA (Official Gazette of the RS, No. 16/2007), this is defined as:
- The right of a disabled person to individual vocational rehabilitation services in the scope, manner and duration defined in the rehabilitation plan (Article 13 of the ZZRZI), are services that are provided with the aim of training the disabled person for appropriate work, getting a job, and retaining employment and advances or changes his professional career in it (Article 4 ZZRZI).
- Vocational rehabilitation is financed from the budget of the Republic of Slovenia, if the referral to vocational rehabilitation services is the Employment Agency of the Republic of Slovenia. In the event that the referrer is the Pension and Disability Insurance Institute of Slovenia, an employer or someone else, the vocational rehabilitation services are financed according to the valid price list effective from June 1, 2006 − Decision on the prices of vocational rehabilitation services and support services.
As stated in Article 2 of the ZZRZI (Ur. l. RS, No. 16/2007), the purpose of the law is to increase the employability of disabled people and establish conditions for their equal participation in the labour market by removing obstacles and creating equal opportunities. The law defines vocational rehabilitation as a right of a disabled person. This means that a person entering vocational rehabilitation must have the status of a disabled person. Usually, a person acquires the status of a disabled person through the so-called service B – preparation of an opinion on the level of work abilities, skills, work habits and professional interests and means a complex team treatment that includes an assessment of health factors; educational and professional factors and acquired work experience; social and environmental factors; abilities, cognitive functions and learning abilities; personalities and behaviours, acceptance of disability, interests and goals; assessment of the individual’s work functioning and definition of the intended field of work or schooling. The expert team determines the individual’s abilities, knowledge, work habits and interests, as well as disabilities, for which further solutions are sought based on this assessment. The teams are composed differently depending on the individual they are dealing with. The opinion is crucial to the continuation of the vocational rehabilitation process. Based on the team’s opinion, a rehabilitation plan is drawn up, which determines the type, scope, method, and duration of vocational rehabilitation services. The rehabilitation plan can be supplemented or changed during the implementation of the rehabilitation.
People are referred to Vocational Rehabilitation by the Institute of Employment of the Republic of Slovenia. In the event that the employment counsellors at ZRSZ notice that a certain person has employment barriers, they can refer them to a rehabilitation counsellor, where they will additionally motivate this person to participate in vocational rehabilitation. A person must submit an application to the Employment Agency of the Republic of Slovenia to obtain the status of a disabled person and exercise the right to employment rehabilitation. Both the rehabilitation counsellors at ZRSZ and the providers of vocational rehabilitation notice considerable difficulties in motivating people to join the rehabilitation process (including people with autism). Long-term unemployment and, as a result, often also social exclusion, are additional burdensome situations that inhibit the process of inclusion in vocational rehabilitation. In addition to a person’s fear of the unknown and new changes in life, the status of a disabled person is added to this. Namely, people often reject the status of a disabled person because they do not consider themselves disabled. According to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, obtaining the status of a disabled person is the only way for a person to acquire the right to vocational rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation providers and the Employment Institute of the Republic of Slovenia have been warning the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs about the mentioned issue for some time. An alternative to the current situation would be to grant only the right to vocational rehabilitation services and not necessarily the status of a disabled person.
Protective employment is the employment of a disabled person in a workplace and in a working environment that is adapted to their working abilities and needs. The disabled person is also offered professional assistance and monitoring at the workplace or other services according to the identified needs.
The majority of protected jobs are provided by employment centers, which were established with the aim of employing disabled people in protected jobs. Other employers (e.g. companies with disabilities) can also establish certain jobs that have the form of protected employment, as long as they have protected jobs properly regulated within the systematization of jobs.
Social inclusion programs are social programs aimed at supporting and maintaining the working abilities of disabled people. The programs include people with disabilities who are not employable due to disability, which is determined by the Employment Institute after completed vocational rehabilitation with a decision on employability from the previous article, disabled people of category I with a decision of the Pension and Disability Insurance Institute of Slovenia without the right to a disability pension under the law, which regulates pension and disability insurance, and people with disabilities in physical and mental development who do not have the possibility of inclusion in appropriate social welfare services. Social inclusion programs are co-financed from the budget of the Republic of Slovenia. The decision on unemployability and thus the right to be included in social inclusion programs is issued by the Institute of Employment of the Republic of Slovenia, based on the proposal of an employability assessment by the provider of employment rehabilitation. An attempt to integrate the school system and employment for an easier transition to the labour market Children and adolescents with autism are at least partially taken care of in Slovenia, but the same cannot be said for adults with autism. And although adults with autism, just like children, need tailored help and support in the form of a holistic approach that would take into account all aspects of their lives (social relationships, employment, independent living), they are often left to fend for themselves or still depend on their parents and quite often, even after successfully completing school, they look for employment for several years, as they are often less successful due to their particularities. Experience from practice shows that timely recognition of autism and referral to appropriate institutions that can help them both in entering the labour market and in other areas of life are crucial for these people (Brecelj, Demšar, Zovko and Bratuš, 2020).
We do not have data on the employment rate of people with autism in Slovenia. The problems in the employment of people with autism indicate the need for targeted specialized treatment and support in their employment. Below are some examples of good domestic practices for employing people with autism.
- In order to solve the employment problem of people with autism, it is important to plan their employment path even before they enter the labour market, i.e. already during their education, because the transition from the school system to the employment system is an important and often demanding step for every young person. For young people with special needs, i.e. also for people with autism, this is especially difficult. A good example of such vocational guidance already during schooling is the project Development and implementation of the transition of young people with special needs to the labour market, which is intended to provide professional assistance to young people when transitioning from school to employment. According to the Act on Guidance of Children with Special Needs, anyone who has a relevant decision from the Institute of Education of the Republic of Slovenia and is up to 29 years old can join it. Various contents are available to those involved in the project on the basis of an individual transition plan, and experts connect with parents, counsellors, teachers, social work centers, personal doctors and other institutions that can influence the success of the transition to employment. From the interview with the project coordinators, we can summarize that in the first two years of the project, it turned out that one of the groups that needs the most help and professional support in this area are young people with autism. Professional workers in this project report on successful cases of helping young people with autism. The project is thus becoming more and more established as a good connecting link between the education system and the employment system for young people with special needs.
(more at https://prehodmladih.si/) (Brecelj, Demšar, Zovko and Bratuš, 2020).
- An important element in increasing the participation of people with autism in the labour market is the integration of various systems in a certain local community, especially the education and employment system. The school system represents only one phase of preparing people with autism for independent life and must necessarily be connected to the labour market so that the transition to the labour market after finishing school can be successful. The main goal of education is training for a suitable profession and, as a result, employment. Without the integration of different sectors (educational, employment, economic, NGO), this transition to the labour market for people with autism is often unsuccessful.
- As a result, we used a questionnaire to determine the needs of employers (attitudes towards the employment of people with autism, employers’ knowledge of the employment of people with autism, employers’ willingness to employ people with autism) with the aim of facilitating the social integration of people with autism into the community and equal enforcement of their rights as EU citizens ( the right to work). Only by addressing and having a good prior knowledge of the needs of employers when hiring people with autism can we successfully pursue the goal set above.
- Analysis of this employer needs survey will be published here soon.