Will the disability employment gap ever be halved?
The TUC has published new analysis of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) ahead of its annual Disabled Workers’ conference which shows the differences in employment, unemployment and earnings between disabled and non-disabled workers. We have set out some key findings below.
The government manifesto commitment to halve the employment gap, which would mean 63 per cent of disabled people in work by 2020, is a welcome commitment.
The latest employment rate of disabled people remains at below 50 per cent, at 47.2 per cent for Q4 2015. It averaged at 46.6 per cent between 2008 and 2014. The latest employment rate for non-disabled people is 80.3 per cent, and the average rate between 2008 and 2015 was 78.0 per cent.
TUC analysis of Labour Force Survey employment rate figures for disabled people in Q4 2015 shows it would require an increase from 47.2 per cent to 63.8 per cent to halve the employment gap. This is very slightly different to the government figure of 63.5 per cent cited in the recent Work and Pensions Committee call for evidence as the government figures includes UK data.
Since the change in the definition of disability used in the Labour Force Survey in Q2 2013 there has been a slight increase in the number and percentage of disabled people in employment. The figures over the 11 quarters from Q2 2013 to Q4 2015 show the average quarterly increase in the employment rate for disabled people was 0.29 percentage points. Over the same period the employment rate for non-disabled people increased, on averaged, at 0.32 per cent per quarter.
The TUC have calculated that at the current rate of change, from Q1 2016, it would take until Q2 2030 to halve the employment gap (58 quarters).
By the end of this Parliament (Q2 2020) at the current rate of change, there would still only be a 52.4 per cent employment rate for disabled people. This means that with a number of provisos and assuming the current rate of change continues, only around a third of the government’s goal would have been achieved (31 per cent).
Clearly, economic growth is not uniform, the size of the disabled population will change and what is included in the definition of disability may change over this time period. And as the TUC’s report Disability and Employment identified, people with different disabilities experience varying problems and discrimination in finding employment.
The chart below compares the average (mean) gross hourly pay for all employees of disabled and non-disabled people in Q4 2014 and Q4 2015. Again, it shows a differential between these groups with disabled people, on average, on a lower hourly gross hourly rate of pay. In Q4 2014 the average hourly pay for disabled people was 14.8 per cent lower than non-disabled people. Average hourly pay increased for both non-disabled people and disabled workers from Q4 2014 to Q4 2015. However, the gap narrowed between them in Q4 2015, when the average pay per hour for disabled people was 12.3 per cent less than non-disabled people.
This table highlights the average hourly pay differential between full-time and part-time disabled and non-disabled workers in Q4 2014 and Q4 2015. This gap decreased slightly for both full and part-time workers over this time period.
If we look at weekly average pay for disabled and non-disabled workers and full and part-time, pay goes up for all categories except for disabled part-time workers between Q4 2014 and Q4 2015.
So, in essence while the government’s goal is welcome, it is a starting point. The TUC recommends the following.
- Expansion and increased funding of the Access to Work programme to meet demand and promoting widely to employers
- The Work Programme should be amended to create separate streams tailored to disabled people.
- The £30 cut for new claimants to the Work Related Activity Group of the Employment and Support Allowance (ESAG WRAG) planned for April 2017 should be reversed.
- The Work Choice scheme should be funded beyond 2017 and should tailored to provide for disabled people’s needs.
- Employers should work with unions to create disability equality employment policies. This should cover disability related sickness absence; disability leave; confidentiality; flexible working; time off for medical appointments. All such policies go a long way in supporting disabled people to stay in work.
- The government should work with unions and employers to create an inclusive environment where being disabled isn’t stigmatised so disabled people are more willing to disclose their disability. This in turn may make it easier for disabled people to ask for adjustments. This could help to ensure people who develop an impairment whilst at work, stay in work.
Note: Figures for disability are not comparable between 2008 and 2015 because of changes in how it is measured throughout this period. The LFS last changed how it defined disability in Q2 2013 following the Equality Act and hence the most recent figures comparable are from Q2 2013 to Q4 2015 for Great Britain. Figures in this paper update those in the 2015 TUC report Disability and Employment. More can be read on technicalities of LFS statistics regarding disability in the updated TUC paper Disability and Employment.