Everything you need to know about disability in the workplace

Published by Jorris TYRE le 7 February 2020

The world of work and disability

What is disability?

Disability may occur at birth or during the course of a lifetime as a result of an accident, illness or other cause, such as ageing. French law defines disability as “any limitation on activity or restriction on participation in life in society suffered in a person’s own environment due to the substantial, long-term or permanent alteration of one or more physical, sensory, mental, cognitive or psychological functions, multiple disabilities or an incapacitating health condition”.

Disability is therefore only manifested in certain situations. If the disability is compatible with the position held, which may require some simple modifications to the workstation, it will not present a barrier to professional life or performance.

A more familiar reality than you may believe

Disability is often represented by a limited number of stereotypes, such as people in wheelchairs, deaf or blind people, etc.

However, the concept of disability covers a remarkably diverse range of situations. Incapacitating illnesses such as cardio-vascular, respiratory or digestive diseases, cancer, allergies, diabetes, haemophilia, AIDS, psychological problems (such as depression), obesity and musculoskeletal disorders can all cause one or more incapacities leading to a situation of disability in the workplace and may result in the allocation of the status of disabled worker (known in France as RQTH(1)).

French law considers a disabled worker to be “any person with reduced potential for obtaining or maintaining a job as a result of a deficiency or reduction in physical ability”.

Understanding RQTH status

RQTH (disabled worker) status is formally recognised for any person with reduced potential for obtaining or maintaining a job as a result of the alteration of one or more physical, sensory, mental or psychological functions.


  • Visual disabilities = blind or visually impaired
  • Hearing disabilities = deaf or hearing impaired
  • Mobility disabilities = paraplegia, tetraplegia, hemiplegia, CVA (Cerebrovascular accident), etc.
  • Incapacitating illnesses = diabetes, MSD, polyarthritis, HIV
  • Intellectual disabilities = Down’s Syndrome, Fragile X syndrome
  • Psychological disabilities = anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, autism


  • Lack of information
  • Fear of being labelled “disabled”
  • Fear of being discriminated against
  • Lack of awareness of the benefits

The process for obtaining certification

RQTH status is recognised by the French commission for the rights and independence of people with disabilities (Commission des droits et de l’autonomie des personnes handicapées or CDAPH). Applications are handled by the regional MDPH (Maison départementale pour personnes handicapées) centres in France.

RQTH status is allocated for a renewable period of 1 to 5 years

Applicants are also offered guidance from an ESAT, the job market or a vocational rehabilitation centre.

The benefits of certification

  • Personalised flexible working hours
  • Workstation adaptation
  • Additional medical care
  • Redeployment within the company
  • Support from the AGEFIPH with the transition


AGEFIPH Association de gestion des fonds pour l’insertion professionnelle des personnes handicapées

A French organisation that manages funds to help disabled workers find employment and maintain a job in a normal working environment. The annual contributions from private companies, which do not respect the obligation in France to employ disabled workers, are paid into this fund.

CDAPH Commission des droits et de l’autonomie des personnes handicapées

This commission, which was preceded by the Cotorep amongst others, has been making decisions relating to the rights of people with disabilities since 1 January 2006.

EA Entreprise adaptée

These businesses operate in the mainstream working environment, offering suitable working conditions for disabled workers with reduced working capacity. Their workforce is made up of at least 80% workers with disabilities and they have replaced sheltered workshops (ateliers protégés) since the introduction of the law of 11 February 2005.

ESAT Etablissement et service d’aide par le travail

A French medical and welfare organisation to help integrate people with disabilities into the mainstream labour market. ESAT establishments have replaced CAT centres since the law of 11 February 2015. They offer workers with disabilities, who have been oriented towards the protected environment by the CDAPH, the possibility of finding a job to suit their abilities and to help develop their potential.

GESAT Réseau national du travail protégé et adapté

An association set up in 1982 by a group of directors of establishments and companies from the sheltered and adapted sector under the name GEST (Groupement des établissements de service et travaux). Renamed GESAT in 2005, the aim of this network is to promote the sector and ensure that dialogue between economic stakeholders and the EA or ESAT allows the latter to develop an offer that fulfils the requirements of the former.

MDPH Maison départementale pour personnes handicapées

MDPH are public interest groups working under the auspices of the regional council to bring together all the public organisations and associations working in the field of disability.

RQTH Reconnaissance de la qualité de travailleur handicapé

This recognition of the status of people with disabilities is allocated by the CDAPH and gives disabled people certain rights (careers advice, training, grants from employment agencies and the AGEFIPH, etc.), as well as defining the rights of their employers (obligation to employ disabled people, work station adaptation etc.).

STPA Secteur du travail protégé et adapté (Protected and adapted work sector)

Jorris Tyre
Purchasing Consultant

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