Disability employment gap: “Now Is The Time” to take action, says big business

50 business leaders sign open letter to Prime Minister as campaign launched to close disability employment gap

More leading business CEOs, including Dame Emma Walmsley of GSK, Dame Carolyn McCall of ITV and Amanda Blanc of Aviva, have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister(PM) urging him to deliver on his promise of a truly transformative National Strategy for Disabled People.

In the letter, published today in The Times newspaper – the signatories say, “disabled people have waited long enough; now is the time for action”. They urge the PM to consider The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Disability Commission’s proposals and say, “we stand ready to play our part”.

The letter coincides with the launch of a campaign to halve the disability employment gap following the publication of “Now Is The Time”, a new report by the CSJ Disability Commission, which includes five key recommendations to improve employment prospects of disabled people across the UK.

Disability employment gap

One of the Commission’s key recommendations is introducing mandatory workforce reporting as a vital first step in bringing greater transparency and a level playing field for measuring progress.

The CSJ Disability Commission is chaired by a disabled Conservative member of the House of Lords, Kevin Shinkwin. It comprises both disabled and non-disabled members from the business, academic, disability and parliamentary worlds.

Commenting on the business community’s response, Lord Shinkwin said: “We are delighted that so many high-profile business leaders have signed the open letter to the Prime Minister. Their support signals a clear appetite for change, so today, we are launching a campaign to halve the disability employment gap. 

“It is crucial that the PM now delivers on his promise to produce the most ambitious and transformative disability plan in a generation. The CSJ Disability Commission’s submission to his National Strategy for Disabled People is designed to help him do just that. I hope he takes our recommendations on board.” 

Key recommendations

Currently, just 52% of people with disabilities (and only 5.6% of those with a  learning disability) are in employment compared with 81% of non-disabled people. Disabled people across the UK have also been hit particularly hard by Coronavirus, including a further widening of the disability employment gap, which is why concerted action by the Government and business is crucial.

The CSJ Disability Commission suggests five key recommendations to vastly improve the employment prospects of disabled people throughout the UK:

– Increasing supported routes into employment

– Introducing mandatory workforce reporting

– Leveraging Government procurement

– Reforming the Government’s Disability Confident scheme 

– Reforming the Government’s Access to Work scheme

The report also extends beyond employment to cover four other areas of life for disabled people: transport, education, housing, and access to goods and services. It makes extensive policy recommendations that, if enacted, would enable disabled people to participate more fully in society and realise their potential.

Tanni, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, gold medal-winning former Paralympian and a Commissioner, says: “Despite the very welcome improvements in legislation since the Disability Discrimination Act, the experience of the last 25 years shows that laws on their own aren’t enough. The political will to enforce them is crucial. Right now, disabled people feel that we’re going backwards. That’s why we really need the PM to keep his promise of a transformative strategy and drive change from the front.”

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