The Czech government has formally begun preparing new legislation, which will assist socially disadvantaged groups in finding employment in Czech businesses and public institutions. Presently, employers seeking to add handicapped or homeless staff to their ranks do so without a precise legal framework.
The government is seeking to make it easier for both sides – businesses and public institutions on the one hand, and members of disadvantaged groups on the other – to operate within a framework that eases discrimination and red tape in the employment sphere. The new plans would create a formal “sociální podnikání” or “social enterprise” scheme, in which employers would be offered incentives for accepting the “risk” of bringing members of socially disadvantaged groups into their ranks. According to Czech Television, only 200 businesses in the country are presently fully open to employing people from these groups.
Petra Francová is the head of P3, a charity that seeks to expand opportunities for socially disadvantaged people. She welcomed the government’s latest steps towards reform:
“We consider this law to be important because it will state exactly what a social enterprise or social entrepreneurship is, and it will create a framework for this are of activities. We have been promoting this issue for many years, but it is difficult when we try to gain any kind of advantages for social enterprises. Usually, public institutions tell us that there is presently no official definition, and that they don’t know what a social enterprise is, and thus cannot provide any support. Our basic idea is that reforms would help both the socially and physically disadvantaged.”
The government reforms would create formal categories of socially disadvantaged and physically disadvantaged potential employees. It would also assist employers in providing necessary assistance to those who may require additional guidance and assistance in adapting to the working environment. Petra Francová again:
“Social enterprises can employ socially disadvantaged people, but it is not compulsory. They do have to fulfill certain other criteria than just employing people from disadvantaged groups. They should behave better towards their employees; behave better towards their local communities; they should work with their stakeholders much more than a normal business, and they agree to channel part of their profits back towards further social enterprise projects, to support local NGOs and basically use their profits in a different way.”
Francová also believes that the proposed reforms will serve to guarantee certain practices and standards:
“Up to now, it was just their decision whether a business wanted to say they were a social enterprise or not. But there was no institutional oversight of that. So this law is basically an initiative to create an official framework.”