TWO IN FIVE DISABLED WORKERS (40 per cent) have been pushed into financial hardship over the last year, according to new Trades Union Congress (TUC) polling. The polling shows how disabled workers’ living standards have been “hit hardest” by Covid-19. 

Leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire has also published new research which shows the continuing stigma against disabled workers, and calls for action to break down barriers to employment for disabled people.

Two in five disabled workers (40 per cent) told the TUC that they have faced financial difficulty during the pandemic compared to around one in four (27 per cent) non-disabled workers.

They said that they had experienced:

  • Increasing debt: More than one in six (16 per cent) of disabled workers said their levels of debt have increased, compared to around one in 10 (11 per cent) non-disabled workers.
  • Cutting back on spending: Around three in 10 (28 per cent) disabled workers had been forced to cut back on spending, compared to around two in 10 (18 per cent) non-disabled workers.
  • Using food banks: Disabled workers (six per cent) were twice as likely to have had to visit a food bank than non-disabled workers (three per cent).

Disabled workers (22 per cent) were also twice as likely to say they were concerned about losing their jobs than non-disabled workers (11 per cent).

Disability pay gap day

The poll findings are published alongside new TUC analysis which shows that non-disabled employees earn on average £1.90 an hour (16.5 per cent) more than disabled employees – or £3,458 more a year (based on a 35-hour week).

That means disabled workers effectively stop getting paid on 9 November, and work for free for the last 52 days of the year. The TUC has branded 9 November ‘disability pay gap day’.

Disabled women face an even bigger pay gap. Non-disabled men are paid on average 32 per cent (£3.50 an hour, or around £6,370 a year) more than disabled women.

The £3,458 pay gap is the equivalent of:

  • More than a year (13 months) of the average household expenditure on food and non-alcoholic drinks (£63.70 per week) or
  • Nearly a year (10 months) of the average expenditure on housing, fuel and power (£83.00 per week) or
  • Nearly a year (10 months) of what the average household spends on transport (£81.60 per week).

Leonard Cheshire research 

Leading global disability charity Leonard Cheshire also released new research which reveals that disabled workers say they have been left behind by the Covid-19 recovery.

The Leonard Cheshire study finds that the vast majority (89 per cent) of disabled young people aged 18-24 years old said that their work had been affected by the pandemic, and that one in five employers (19 per cent) would be less likely to employ a disabled person than a non-disabled person.

The TUC and Leonard Cheshire are urging the government to act now to close the disability employment and pay gap and ensure disabled people gain and retain quality employment.

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary said: “Disabled workers have been hit hardest by Covid-19. Many have been pushed into financial hardship and left without a safety net. With a cost-of-living crisis looming we need urgent action from ministers.

“As we saw with the last financial crisis disabled people are all too often first in line for redundancy, and those who keep hold of their jobs face a yawning pay gap.

“Disabled people deserve much better. We need mandatory disability pay gap reporting to shine a light on poor workplace practices that fuel inequality at work.

“Without this, millions of disabled workers will be consigned to years of lower pay and in-work poverty.”

Director of Policy at Leonard Cheshire, Gemma Hope, said: “Disabled people have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and employment support is vital to ensure they’re not further left behind. Our research also suggests stubborn levels of stigma amongst employers and that young disabled people remain adrift in the current job market.

“We call on government to increase efforts to support disabled job seekers and recruiters to continue working with us in recognising the depth of talent available.”

The TUC is calling on the government to deliver:

  • Mandatory disability pay gap reporting for all employers with more than 50 employees. This should be accompanied by a duty on employers to produce targeted action plans identifying the steps they will take to address any gaps which are identified.
  • Enforcement of reasonable adjustments: The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should get specific funding to enforce disabled workers’ rights to reasonable adjustments.
  • A stronger legal framework for adjustments: The EHRC must 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 and understand its technical detail.

* Source: Trades Union Congress