The Rehabilitation World of Sheltered Workshops

What are sheltered workshops?

Sheltered workshops are facilities for participation in working life. They offer vocational training and participation for people who, due to the type or severity of their disability, cannot, not yet, or not yet again be employed on the general labor market. 

The legal basis for sheltered workshops is the Social Code Book Nine (SGB IX). Workshops are legally defined in the third part in chapter 12 (§ 219 ff.) as facilities for the participation of disabled people in working life and for integration into working life. The services that workshops provide are defined in more detail in chapter 10 of the first part in §§ 56 ff. as services for participation in working life. 

What services do sheltered workshops provide?

As facilities for the participation of disabled people in working life and for integration into working life, workshops offer a very diverse range of services. Since the only criterion for access to workshop services is a reduction in earning capacity due to a disability, this range of services must also be provided for a very heterogeneous group of people. 

Vocational Education

After a three-month orientation phase (initial procedure), people with disabilities who take advantage of the workshop service go through a vocational education area lasting up to two years.  

In the vocational education area, various skills are learned and practiced with the aim of individual development, improvement, restoration or maintenance of the performance and earning capacity of the participating person. 

Employment and Remuneration 

After the vocational training area, the transition to the work area follows. Employment in the work area is generally for an indefinite period and usually runs until the regular age limit is reached.  

Each workshop should have as wide a range of jobs as possible in order to take into account the type and severity of the disability, the different capabilities, development opportunities, aptitude and inclination of the people with disabilities as far as possible. The workplaces should correspond as far as possible to those on the general labor market in terms of their equipment.  

Workshops specialize in the disaggregation of work steps, because the special needs of a large number of people with a wide variety of disabilities must be taken into account in the design of workplaces and work processes in order to enable them to perform economically viable work. This is because workshops are obligated to pay workshop employees a wage that is commensurate with their performance and that the workshop employees themselves generate.  

Further Development and Transitions 

Workshops are not profit-making enterprises, but institutions for vocational rehabilitation. The focus of workshop work is not on production and turnover, but on vocational support, vocational training and services that help disabled adults to develop their personalities.  

The decisive work-pedagogical and work-therapeutic integration instrument is meaningful and individually designed work on jobs that correspond to the needs, interests and inclinations of the workshop employees. In addition, there are also various further training opportunities and leisure activities in so-called work-accompanying measures. Workshops thus fulfill not only a rehabilitative but also an important social function. 

The range of vocational training and workplaces includes outsourced places on the general labor market. The outsourced jobs are offered for the purpose of transition and as permanent outsourced places. This is because workshops additionally promote the transition of suitable persons to the general labor market through appropriate measures.

Which rehabilitation provider is responsible for the services in a sheltered workshop?

The Federal Employment Agency and, if applicable, the pension insurance fund, if the person with disabilities was previously active on the general labor market, are the relevant providers of services in the initial training and vocational training area. In the area of work, the providers of integration assistance are generally responsible. The exact responsibility according to the benefit laws can be found in § 63 SGB IX. 

Further information on workshops can be found at