Vulnerable Populations in terms of Health Care and their Right to Decent Work

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Sanja Stojković Zlatanović


Vulnerability may arise from individual characteristics of individuals or social groups, employment conditions or as a result of difficulties in exercising fundamental social human rights. Principle of equity in terms of labor and employment as well as equity in health are closely linked and represented in a concept of decent work for all, promoted by the International Labor Organization. The concept of decent work aims to improve work conditions for the marginalized and vulnerable workers, where the notions “vulnerable” and “marginalized” represent people on the periphery of formal, standard employ-ment, people working in an environment where the risk of being denied employment rights is high and also those who do not have the capacity to protect themselves from the abuse.

The labor status of social groups whose personal characteristics, i.e. health characteristics, make them vulnerable in terms of work conditions and labor rights has been analyzed. In international, comparative and Serbian law, workers with disabilities are already protected by the special law provisions of professional rehabilitation and employment of people with disabilities. On the contrary, the status of workers who are not considered as people with disabilities but who are faced with some health problems are not recognized in the labor legislation and protected by the law. People with health problems may be those who are chronically ill i.e. people in a remission of a disease. Considering the current demographic process of population aging, an increase of elderly in economically active population/labor force could be expected, which also means the increase of chronically ill workers. This fact, argue in favor of regulation the labor status of people with health problems. Furthermore, according to the World Health Organization, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, where the third component of health – social well-being could be used as justification for the integration of workers with health problems in the workplace. The aim is to prevent the occurrence of disability in terms of preventive approach. The integration and protection measures are represented in a form of flexible work arrangements (for instance, part-time work, tele-work), assignment a person with a health problem to another adequate job, establishment the right to a paid leave for the purpose of therapy by the law, prohibition of a night shift and overtime job for worker with health problems.

The Serbian Labor Act (2005) has introduced a category of workers with the health problems and stipulates that those workers could not be assigned to a job that could have a negative effect to a health status/condition of an individual. A broader protection measures in terms of decent work and health equity, meaning that everyone should have a fair opportunity to attain their full health potential with the aim of performing major life activities, including working activities, are not introduced by the Serbian Labor Act. That need to be changed, taking into account the fact that the Serbian Disability Act does not recognize the workers with temporary or/and occasional health impairments, meaning that the special measures of professional integration of people with disabilities could not be applied to the people with health problems.


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Stojković Zlatanović, S. (2016). Vulnerable Populations in terms of Health Care and their Right to Decent Work. Stanovnistvo, 54(2), 83–103.