The gender pay gap has been hitting the headlines recently but what about the disability employment gap?
Under the Equality Act 2010 a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [one’s] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”
The disability employment gap is the difference between employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people. According to the Labour Force Statistics published in summer 2017, the disability employment gap remained unchanged at 31.3 percentage points. That means that there is a gap of roughly 30% between disabled and non-disabled individuals in employment.
Prejudices, coupled alongside a lack of understanding by employers, have contributed to the employment gap. Employers ought to be aware that the Access to Work scheme is available and is a publicly funded employment support program set up to provide funds to help more disabled people start or stay in work.
Under the Equality Act 2010 there is a duty for employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled workers. The support provided by Access to Work covers interventions that go beyond this duty, and grants are assessed on an individual basis. On 20 March 2018 the Government raised the cap on funding by £15,000 so that the annual cap is now £57,200.
In 2015 the Government said that they will aim to halve the disability employment gap and this was taken to mean by the end of the Parliament. However, the Government has clarified that there is no specific time period on this pledge but it has talked of a “10 year strategy.”
Rightly so, gender inequality has been brought to the forefront for challenge. However, the disability employment gap is equally as important and ought to demand the same attention for change. In the words of the late Professor Stephen Hawking “we have a moral duty to remove the barriers of participation, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.”
In a climate where businesses are regularly highlighting labour shortages or employment skill gaps, let them be reminded that there is an additional 30% potential workforce available to be utilised.