According to the Federal Statistical Office, 7.9 million people with a severe disability currently live in Germany. That is 9.4 percent of the total population. A person is considered severely disabled if the pension office awards him or her a disability rating of 50. The causes are manifold. In addition to physical disabilities such as deformities, paralysis or amputations, they also include cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurological and psychological problems. People with disabilities also work at the DPZ. They are supported in various ways at the institute.
"It's important that we can provide relief for people who become ill in the course of your working life so that they can continue to work," says Katharina Peters, administrative manager at DPZ. "Three-quarters of our colleagues who are severely disabled first became so in the course of their working lives or are not permanently so. Ultimately, this is always a case-by-case consideration and needs creative solutions in each individual case. From our very different positions in the support provided by representative body for employees with disabilities, human resources, works council and management, we help wherever we can."
Legislation stipulates that, wherever possible, five percent of jobs in a company must be filled by people with disabilities. In 2020, 13 people with a severe disability worked at the DPZ. This meant that only 85 percent of the quota was met. "Some severe disabilities only occur in the current work year, and those affected leave or are hired during the year. In addition, the number of applications from people with disabilities is usually very low. Of course, we strive for 100 percent fulfillment of the quota," says Andrea Backhaus, head of human resources at the DPZ.
In order to do more in this regard, severely disabled applicants are given preferential consideration if they have the same aptitude and qualifications. In addition, the DPZ supports the workshops for the disabled by supporting their work or purchasing products manufactured there. "We currently employ one person from the Göttingen workshops," says Andrea Backhaus. "He is employed here on a half-day basis from April to October and helps with the gardening work around the institute. People with disabilities in all occupational groups and salary grades work at the DPZ."
The severely disabled persons are also supported by the representative body for employees with disabilities at the DPZ, which has been in place since April 2015. It is required by the Social Security Code if at least five severely disabled persons work in a company. The representation is elected every four years by the severely disabled employees at the DPZ. Since 2018, Daniel Reckel, deputy head of IT, and Nadine Ellrott, an employee in building management, have accompanied the office. Both also live with a disability. Their task is to advocate for the interests of severely disabled employees at the institute and to provide them with advice and assistance. Twice a year, they organize meetings with all severely disabled people in the building.
"When those affected at the DPZ need support with problems or changes at work, we look at what can be done to make it easier for these people to work," says Daniel Reckel, who has accompanied the office since 2015. "However, we have also had many conversations recently about depressive phases or anxiety states also due to the corona pandemic. Of course, this is a difficult time for all employees, but for severely disabled people with pre-existing conditions in particular."
Some concrete measures have already been implemented over the past six years. Among other things, automatically opening doors have been installed at the main and side entrances, offices have been remodeled, chairs and tables have been cut to suit the needs of the disabled, and other aids such as keyboards suitable for the disabled have been procured. The disabled toilets are also regularly inspected. "In the future, we would like to implement further measures for severely disabled DPZ employees," says Daniel Reckel. "This includes, for example, making our website barrier-free."
"Our representative body for severely disabled employees does good and very important work at the institute," says Katharina Peters. "If we could still wish for something politically, it would be fewer hurdles for partial retirement. We and those affected need resilient perspectives when an illness increases over time and the burden of a full job is no longer bearable. Unfortunately, the procedures for partial retirement are lengthy, unpredictable and time-limited, so we rarely get the leeway on the employer side to provide a sick person with a worker to supplement them."