From education to employment

Disabled workers face “living standards emergency”

The disability pay gap, the gap between median pay for disabled employees and non-disabled employees, was 13.8% in 2021 and 14.1% in 2019 prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; this gap has widened slightly since 2014 when disabled employees earnt 11.7% less than non-disabled employees.

The disability pay gap has consistently been wider for disabled men than for disabled women; in 2021 median pay for disabled men was 12.4% less than non-disabled men, and median pay for disabled women was 10.5% less than non-disabled women.

In 2021, median pay for disabled employees living in Wales was 11.6% less than non-disabled employees, which was the narrowest of the four UK nations; Scotland had the widest disability pay gap at 18.5%.

Disabled employees who were limited a lot in their day-to-day activities consistently had a wider pay gap to non-disabled employees without a long-lasting health condition (19.9% less in 2021) than disabled employees whose day-to-day activities were limited a little (12.1% in 2021).

Disabled employees with autism as their main impairment had a wider pay gap in 2021 than disabled people with other types of main impairment, having a median pay 33.5% less than non-disabled employees without a long-lasting health condition.

Adjusting for personal and job characteristics narrows the pay gap seen between most groups of disabled employees and non-disabled employees without a long-lasting health condition – the largest narrowing was seen for disabled employees with autism as their main impairment, where the adjusted pay gap was 9.9% compared with a non-adjusted pay gap of 33.5%.

Sector Response

Commenting on figures published by the ONS today (Monday) which show that disabled workers earn on average £1.93 per hour less than non-disabled employees (a gap of over £3,500 per year based on a 35-hour week) TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Disabled workers were among the hardest hit during the pandemic

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

“With bills and prices sky-rocketing, the government must act now to help disabled workers and all struggling families.

“That means coming back to parliament with an emergency budget to boost pay and  universal credit, and cut energy bills.

“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.

“Otherwise, millions of disabled workers will continue to face lower pay and in-work poverty.”

The ONS figures also show that the pay gap between disabled and non-disabled employees has widened, now standing at 13.8%, up from 11.7% in 2014. 

TUC polling published last November revealed that two in five (40%) disabled workers have been pushed into financial hardship over the last year during the pandemic.

Government action needed

The TUC is calling on the government to deliver:

  • An emergency budget to boost pay, pensions and universal credit, and cut energy bills through a windfall tax on energy company profits.
  • Mandatory disability pay gap reporting for all employers with more than 50 employees. This should be accompanied by a duty on bosses to produce targeted action plans identifying the steps they will take to address any gaps identified.
  • Enforcement of reasonable adjustments: The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should get specific funding to enforce disabled workers’ rights to reasonable adjustments and should update their statutory code of practice to include more examples of reasonable adjustments, to help disabled workers get the adjustments they need quickly and effectively. This will help lawyers, advisers, union reps and human resources departments apply the law properly.

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