MPs and campaigners convene to discuss the disability insecurity gap

Image of a woman being interviewed on camera as part of an event. © Sam McGhee, Unsplash

A recent report, ‘The Disability Gap: Insecure work in the UK’released by the Work Foundation estimated that 27% of disabled workers (1.3 million people) are in severely insecure work in the UK, compared to 19% of non-disabled workers.

Certain groups of disabled workers who face structural barriers to entering and remaining in work are also disproportionately more likely to be in insecure roles. Disabled women are approximately 2.2 times more likely to be in severely insecure work than disabled men.

Disabled workers from ethnic minority backgrounds are also more likely to be in severely insecure work relative to white workers (29% vs 26%), whilst one in three autistic workers (38%) and a quarter of people with mental health conditions (28%) are in severely insecure work.

This new report is against the backdrop of disabled workers having worse employment outcomes than non-disabled people. Over the last ten years, the employment rate for disabled people has been approximately 30 percentage points lower than non-disabled people.

With the cost-of-living crisis disproportionately impacting disabled workers, the Work Foundation convened leading policy-makers and disability campaigners at the Disability Insecurity Gap webinar on Wednesday 12 July 2023. Panellists highlighted the current key challenges facing disabled workers within the workplace and what they felt could be done to tackle those issues.

Problems are far greater than just getting disabled people into work

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK, called on both the government and employers to do more to help disabled workers in the workplace.

“Entering the workforce doesn’t mean that disabled people are released from the poverty or the other discrimination that they face,” she said. “And that’s pretty serious.

“There should be a bold commitment to halve the disability employment gap to get more disabled people into the workplace, in a way that gives disabled people the best chance of leaving poverty and moving into reasonably paid and satisfying roles within the workplace.

“Employers, big organisations and small, can begin to monitor your own workforce in relation to disability and the disability pay gap and the insecurity issues that we’re hearing about today. You can bring in flexibility, there’s nothing to stop it. You can make the reasonable adjustments, and you can make sure that your disabled staff have development plans and can progress within your workforce.”

Lack of job security for disabled workers

Vicky Foxcroft MP, Shadow Minster for Disabled People, focused on the lack of job security for disabled workers.

“The disability employment gap stands at just under 30% and the difficulties do not stop with getting into employment,” she said. “Once they’re in work, disabled people are faced with a lack of job security.

“Many disabled workers have been pushed into getting any work, rather than quality, secure jobs. This not only risks their health and financial security, but also damages the wider economy if they are forced to leave the labour market altogether.

“We will act to close the disability employment gap and make disability workforce and disability pay gap reporting mandatory. We also have our fantastic new deal for working people, which will hugely benefit disabled people and those with long term health conditions.”

Autism employment gap is not just an issue of morality

Sir Robert Buckland, KBE KC MP, Chair of the Government's Autism Employment Review, focused on the autism employment gap and highlighted that the issue is not just one of morality.

“This issue is not just of moral importance, but of economic importance to the health of our country more generally,” he said.

“We need to be changing the whole culture within organisations, so the way in which interviews are conducted and the way in which applicants are allowed to prepare for interviews should change across the board.

“My review is very much targeted on the issues of recruitment and retention, and focus not always on the autistic person, but on the employer, on the economy, on industry, on the wider implications as to what all of us can do better in order to really realise the potential of autistic people.”

You can read the full report here.

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