Conceptualising disability: Health and legal perspectives related to psychosocial disability and work

L Van Niekerk, D Casteleijn, A Govindjee, W Holness, J Oberholster, C Grobler


Background: Work has been found to improve health outcomes and increase quality of life. It is also a vehicle through which people develop personally, earn an income and meet other needs; as such work is recognised as a social determinant of health. However, persons with psycho-social disability face many barriers in their quest to achieve equality, thus experiencing ongoing marginalisation and exclusion from full participation in work. Objectives: The aim of this article is to explore the nexus between South Africa’s progressive constitutional and legislative context, employers and the provision of health- and law-related services facilitating participation of persons with psycho-social disability in work. Methods: The authors, with diverse professional backgrounds namely law, psychiatry and occupational therapy, developed a synthesised perspective to highlight issues that require consideration and develop guiding principles from which practitioners can draw to support the participation of persons with psycho-social disability in work. Results: A perspective is shared to provide direction and inform practice aimed at promoting participation of persons with disability in work. Conclusions: Health professionals are reminded of their ethical duty to support persons with psycho-social disability to either stay at work or return to work as soon as possible. The potential dangers of sick leave in the absence of a return to work plan are highlighted and the need for a multi-professional approach is emphasised.

Authors' affiliations

L Van Niekerk, Stellenbosch University

D Casteleijn, Department, School of Therapeutic Sciences

A Govindjee, Nelson Mandela University

W Holness, Public Law; School of Law

J Oberholster, Siyaya Skills Institute

C Grobler, Nelson Mandela University

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Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2020;13(1):43-51. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.2020.v13i1.00689

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-07-07
Date published: 2020-07-07

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