Today, disabled workers will effectively stop getting paid and will work for free for the last 52 days of the year. While this might sound like hyperbole, it’s the reality, as non-disabled employees earn around 16.5% more.
These startling figures are based on research from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) as it marks Tuesday, 9 November as Disability Pay Gap Day. The same day, disability charity Leonard Cheshire has released figures suggesting that disabled young people are being left behind by the pandemic recovery.
Beyond Disability Pay Gap Day – long term employment issues
Leonard Cheshire found that seven in ten (equating to 69%) of disabled adults said their work had been impacted by COVID-19. However, this rose among members of Generation Z, where it hit 89% for 18-to-24-year-olds. The negative impacts listed included lost income, reduced hours, and unemployment.
Disabled young people are also less confident about their employment prospects than they were in 2020, at the height of the pandemic. More young disabled people (49%) today feel they wouldn’t get another job if they became unemployed compared to 41% last year.
However, disabled young people faced poor employment rates before the pandemic. Figures from the Office for National Statistics put the employment rate among disabled 18–24-year-olds at 46.4% in 2019, contrasting with the much higher 71.0% employment rate among non-disabled people of the same age.
Employer stigma towards disabled candidates doesn’t help the situation, with one in five (19%) reporting that they would be less likely to employ someone with a disability, a figure that’s remained consistent for years.
Initiatives and lobbying for change
While the TUC’s findings demonstrate that non-disabled employees earn on average £1.90 an hour more than disabled employees, equating to £3,458 more in income a year, it isn’t enough to lament the figures as action is needed. This is why TUC and Leonard Cheshire are urging the Government to act now to close the disability employment and pay gap and help disabled people gain long-term quality employment.
Aside from lobbying the Government into action, Leonard Cheshire is implementing its initiatives to help disabled jobseekers. An example is their Changing Futures programme that supports disabled people back into work. Twenty-four-year-old Sarah Woods is one of its recipients. She said: “After leaving my job, I began to feel even less confident in myself and my anxiety surrounding work started to get worse.
“I dreaded application forms and was dismissing many jobs as soon as I saw something, thinking they would make my anxiety worse. I was so worried I would end up in the same situation again.
“Changing Futures made me aware that for many jobs, there are adjustments that can be put in place for my anxiety, and this has helped me feel that there are many more jobs out there I can do.”
Leonard Cheshire is also calling for flexible working to be a day-one entitlement for employees, which is currently being consulted by the Government. They also want a “disability-inclusive successor to Kickstart,” an existing scheme to create jobs for 16–24-year-olds on Universal Credit.
The charity has also demanded further investment in the Access to Work scheme, which funds workplace adjustments and support for disabled employees.
Their research revealed long waits for grants and low awareness among employers that government support is available. Only 37% of employers involved said they used the scheme, while 61% of recipients have waited over three months for support after applying.
However, Leonard Cheshire’s research also reveals a positive shift in attitude among employers towards disability representation in the workplace. They found that almost two-thirds (63%) of employers would support a mandate for employers in businesses with a workforce over 250 to publish the data on the number of disabled people they employ.
Gemma Hope, Director of Policy at Leonard Cheshire, said: “Disabled people have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and employment support is vital to ensure they’re not further left behind.
“Our research also suggests stubborn levels of stigma remain amongst employers and young disabled people remain adrift in the current job market. We call on the Government to increase efforts to support disabled job seekers and recruiters to continue working with us in recognising the depth of talent available.”
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady added: “Disabled workers have been hit hardest by COVID-19. Many have been pushed into financial hardship and left without a safety net. With a cost-of-living crisis looming, we need urgent action from ministers. As we saw with the last financial crisis, disabled people are all too often first in line for redundancy, and those who keep hold of their jobs face a yawning pay gap.
“Disabled people deserve much better. We need mandatory disability pay gap reporting to shine a light on poor workplace practices that fuel inequality at work. Without this, millions of disabled workers will be consigned to years of lower pay and in-work poverty.”
To read the Leonard Cheshire disability employment report in full, please click here.
In this article, you learned that:
- More disabled Gen Zs feel their work has been impacted by COVID-19.
- According to the TUC, non-disabled employees earn on average £1.90 an hour more than disabled employees, equating to £3,458 more in income a year.
- Today, younger disabled talent feel less confident about getting a job if they were unemployed than they did in 2020.