The Participation Act came into force on 1 January 2015 with the premise that everybody participates in society according to their ability and earns their own income as much as possible. The government wants to ensure that people with a work disability will more often obtain a job at a “regular” employer. But it is often harder for these people to find work, and they frequently need supervision or an adapted workplace. And that is exactly where ASTRON sees opportunities, says Verweij. ‘We do not work with vacancies, but we have many talks with job coaches via the municipality. They guide the jobseekers who fall under the PA towards a suitable job. We scan the CVs that we receive and subsequently look whether we have a suitable place or can create one.’
‘If somebody from the PA comes to work with us, we don’t really need to put in that much extra effort’
Down to work with good supervision
‘If somebody from the PA comes to work with us, then we don’t really need to put in that much extra effort. On the work floor, we first of all seek somebody from the team to supervise the new colleague. A sort of buddy who is open towards doing this and enjoys supervising somebody. Furthermore, the candidate from the municipality already has a job coach who he/she can fall back on’, says an enthusiastic Verweij. ASTRON currently has five employees from the PA and is open to taking on more. ‘We have somebody who does very diverse facility management work for 36 hours per week. And at our Communication department, two employees do fantastic work on the website and the production of superb videos for, amongst other things, the website section People of ASTRON. Other colleagues do work in the area of signal processing or providing technical support.’
Only positive experiences
Verweij is very positive about the experiences that ASTRON has within this project. ‘These colleagues are so happy and enthusiastic that they have found a paid job that suits them. They genuinely have a lot to offer. We have not only appointed highly educated people under the Participation Act; people who have not completed their education are also welcome. We offer the opportunity to gain work experience so that people can perhaps eventually transfer to another company or organisation. However, we sometimes offer a tenured position too. If people are genuinely willing, then we are happy to provide them with every opportunity!’
The government requires companies and research institutions such as NWO-I to employ a certain number of people who fall under the PA, explains Verweij. ‘As a government institution, we feel not only a legal obligation but also an intrinsic motivation to make our contribution to help people who fall under the Participation Act in achieving success. We examine all the possibilities there are to offer work. We see that our colleagues who fall under the PA really help to ease the burden on departments and that as a consequence of this, the work can be better allocated. Furthermore, it is remarkable that these colleagues quickly feel at home at ASTRON. That is because we do not place emphasis on the limitation that somebody has but see a world of opportunities instead!’
Text: Melissa Vianen
Photo: Paula Zimmerman
Newsletter Inside NWO-I, May 2021
Introducing Henk Vonk
Henk Vonk is one of the five employees who entered ASTRON via the Participation Act. In 2017, he started as a facility management employee, and he now has a tenured contract. The finest moment during his career at ASTRON was when he was officially appointed as the friendliest employee. And that was not without reason. Henk is flexible and a versatile employee who is always willing to help his colleagues. In his work, he is responsible for the post, makes daily checks around the ASTRON site and does everyday jobs there, from maintaining the buildings and facilities to car repairs. Earlier, Henk used to deliver packages for TNT Post until his job coach pointed out a vacancy at ASTRON to him. ‘I had never heard of ASTRON, but after three interviews, I decided to go and work there. And I’ve never regretted it for a moment because I am really happy here! I’ve even followed a course in English’, says Henk. You can read the full interview with Henk Vonk on the ASTRON website under the section “People of ASTRON”.
NWO and the Participation Act
The Participation Act provides for everybody who can work but cannot make it on the employment market without support. This law must ensure that more people find work, also people with a work disability. By the end of 2020, many of these jobs had been filled at NWO, including at NWO-I. During the past period, as a result of the coronavirus crisis, the main focus has been on retaining these jobs. In the research institutions sector, the aim is to expand the number of these jobs in the coming years.