From education to employment

3 in 4 disabled workers earn less than £15 an hour

team with hands in the middle

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of disabled workers earn less than £15 an hour, according to new analysis of official statistics published by the TUC today (Wednesday).

The analysis – published today during disability history month – reveals that 3.09 million disabled workers around the UK are paid under the median wage of around £15 an hour.

Around half (54%) of non-disabled workers are paid less than this amount.

The TUC argues that disabled workers are over-represented in low-paid work – and says that the new increase in the minimum wage announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn statement doesn’t go anywhere near far enough in lifting workers out of poverty.

Regional and industrial analysis

The new analysis shows that in some parts of the country, even more disabled workers earn less than £15 an hour.

More than four in five disabled workers in the West Midlands (85%) and the North East (82%) earn less than £15 an hour, compared to around three in five (58% and 64%) of non-disabled workers in those regions.

And in some industries, most disabled people are paid less than £15 an hour. Nine in 10 disabled workers in wholesale, retail, repair of vehicles (94%) and arts, entertainment and recreation (89%) are paid less than £15.

Zero-hours contracts

The analysis found that disabled workers are more likely than non-disabled workers to be employed on a zero-hours contract (4.4% compared to 2.9%) with no guarantee of shifts from one week to the next.

The TUC says zero-hours contracts hand the employer total control over their workers’ hours and earning power.

This means workers never know how much they will earn each week, and their income is subject to the whims of managers.

The union body argues that this makes it hard for workers to plan their lives, look after their children and get to medical appointments.

And it makes it harder for workers to challenge unacceptable behaviour by bosses because of concerns about whether they will be penalised by not being allocated hours in future.


Not only are disabled workers paid less than non-disabled workers, they are also more likely to be excluded from the job market.

Disabled workers are now twice as likely as non-disabled workers to be unemployed (6.8% compared to 3.4%).  

In November, the TUC published analysis showing that the pay gap between non-disabled and disabled workers has widened and is now 17.2%, or £3,700 a year.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“We all deserve a decent job with decent pay. Being disabled should not mean you’re employed on a lower wage or on worse terms and conditions. 

“As the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, many disabled workers are struggling to get by.

“We already know disabled people face higher living expenses than non-disabled people. And now they’re being pushed to the brink with eye-watering bills and are having to choose whether to put food on the table or pay their bills.

“Ministers announced the absolute bare minimum on the national minimum wage and universal credit in the Autumn statement. With living costs soaring, we need to ensure that everyone has enough to get by.

“Let’s put an end to low-pay Britain and get to a £15 per hour minimum wage as soon as possible.

“And it’s also past time to introduce mandatory disability pay gap reporting to shine a light on inequality at work. Without this, millions of disabled workers will be consigned to years of lower pay and in-work poverty.”

Government action needed

To address low pay, the TUC is calling for the minimum wage to be raised to £15 an hour as soon as possible.

In August, the union body set out a roadmap to a £15 an hour minimum wage and a high wage economy.

And to further support disabled workers, the TUC wants the government to bring in mandatory disability pay gap reporting for all employers with more than 50 employees.

The union body says the legislation should be accompanied by a duty on employers to produce action plans identifying the steps they will take to address any gaps identified. 

Disabled workers earning less than £15 an hour (figures from LFS Q3 2021-Q2 2022)  

 Disabled Non-disabled
Total employees4,298,32823,810,496
Earning less than £15ph3,089,67812,880,030

Disabled workers earning less than £15 an hour (figures from LFS Q3 2021-Q2 2022) by REGION

Disability: equality act (GSS harmonised)Equality Act DisabledNot Equality Act Disabled
North East8364
North West8060
Yorkshire and Humberside7863
East Midlands7761
West Midlands8558
East of England6952
South East6548
South West7657
Northern Ireland8267

Disabled workers earning less than £15 an hour (figures from LFS Q3 2021-Q2 2022) by INDUSTRY

Disability: equality act (GSS harmonised)Equality Act DisabledNot Equality Act Disabled
Mining and quarrying6329
Electricity, gas, air cond supply7535
Water supply, sewerage, waste8749
Wholesale, retail, repair of vehicles9477
Transport and storage7365
Information and communication3924
Financial and insurance activities5830
Real estate activities7050
Prof, scientific, technical activ.4436
Admin and support services8667
Public admin and defence5744
Health and social work7757
Arts, entertainment and recreation8967
Other service activities7158

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