Pay gap grew last year for workers with disabilities

People with disabilities were paid nearly 14% less than their colleagues, new data shows

August Graham
Monday 25 April 2022 15:42
The disability pay gap impacted those with autism more than those with physical disabilities, the data shows. (Anthony Devlin/PA)
The disability pay gap impacted those with autism more than those with physical disabilities, the data shows. (Anthony Devlin/PA)

The pay gap between people with disabilities and those without grew last year, new data shows.

The Office for National Statistics revealed that the average employee with a disability was paid 13.8% less than their peers in 2021.

It was a small increase from 13.5% the year before, and the pay gap was nearly a fifth wider – or 2.1 percentage points – than it had been in 2014.

Disabled workers were among the hardest hit during the pandemic. And now millions of disabled workers face a living standards emergency

Frances O'Grady, Trades Union Congress general secretary

It means that those with disabilities are earning £1.93 less every hour than their non-disabled counterparts, adding up to £3,500 a year in a full-time job.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said the Government should force companies with more than 50 staff to publish their disability pay gaps.

She also called for funding for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to help it enforce the rights that workers with disabilities have to expect their employer to make reasonable adjustments quickly and effectively.

“Disabled workers were among the hardest hit during the pandemic,” Ms O’Grady said

“And now millions of disabled workers face a living standards emergency – with lower pay than non-disabled workers, but higher energy and transport costs.”

She added: “Disabled workers deserve better. It’s time for big employers to be forced to publish their disability pay gaps, to help shine a light on poor workplace practices that fuel inequality at work.”

The data shows that those who listed autism as their main disability are paid a third less than non-disabled employees, the worst-hit group.

They were followed by those who identified their main disability as “severe or specific learning difficulties” (29.7%) and epilepsy (25.4%). This was before controlling for other aspects, such as age or where people lived.

Malcolm Baker, office manager at Wisbech-based Halo Beauty and Holistic Therapy, who uses a wheelchair, said there is still a lot of discrimination against those with disabilities in the UK labour market.

“Because of the needs of disabled employees obviously being greater than that of their more able-bodied colleagues, businesses will often stick with people who won’t require them to make physical adaptions to the workplace.

“If you’re lucky enough to get employed, then comes the holding back of pay rises because the disabled person probably had two incidences of illness and absence.

“It feels like no one in Government gives a second thought to disabled people.

“Just look at the Personal Independence Payment and how thousands of people are denied things they are entitled to.”

Louise Rubin, head of policy at disability equality charity Scope, said: “Employers need to make sure that their working practices are as accessible and inclusive as possible so disabled employees can thrive.

“This could include measures such as remote working and flexible hours, as well as having accountability for attracting and supporting disabled talent at all levels of their organisation.

“What gets measured gets done, so employers should gather and report on data about disability, including pay.”

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