Disability pay gap widens despite skills shortages

New figures from the Office for National Statistics show the median pay gap between people with disabilities and people without was 13.8% in 2021 – a rise from 11.7% in 2014. The gap highlights opportunities for employer action.

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The ONS data shows disabled employees earned a median of £12.10 per hour in 2021. For non-disabled employees, the median was £14.03 per hour.This latest data further shows the disability pay gap has been widening over the past eight years. In 2014, disabled employees' median earnings were £9.71 per hour – 11.7% less than non-disabled employees' median earnings of £11.00 per hour.Commenting, Simon Wingate, Managing Director of Reed.co.uk, said the widening gap was “disappointing”, and called on employers to raise their game during recruitment at this time of talent shortages and rising household expenses, with people living with disabilities among the most impacted.
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‘Disabled people face discrimination in UK labour market’

The increasing disparity on median pay comes as employees are still dealing with the physical and mental aftermath of Covid-19. A survey by the CIPD and Simplyhealth showed half of employers said they had staff who were living with long Covid in the past year.Disabled employees 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), as well as disabled employees whose day-to-day activities were limited a little (12.1% in 2021).It also shows that disabled adults were less likely to be employed in higher-paid occupations (managers, directors and senior officials, and professional occupations) than non-disabled adults.Malcolm Baker, office manager at Wisbech-based Halo Beauty and Holistic Therapy: "Unfortunately, and I say this as someone who is in a wheelchair, there is still lots of discrimination in the UK employment sector when it comes to disabled people. One favourite line businesses use to not employ disabled people is 'other candidates were more suitable for the position', meaning a wheelchair user cannot possibly do a job like selling cars.“If a disabled person is hired, it's normally on a 1–3-month temporary contract as a trial period with the 'opportunity' to go full time. But generally, because of the needs of disabled employees obviously being greater than that of their more able-bodied colleagues, businesses will often stick with people who won't require them to make physical adaptions to the workplace.“If you're lucky enough to get employed, then comes the holding back of pay rises because the disabled person probably had two incidences of illness and absence. It feels like no one in government gives a second thought to disabled people. Just look at the Personal Independence Payment and how thousands of people are denied things they are entitled to."

Inclusion and diversity at work matters in recruitment

In the context of the levelling up agenda, people with disabilities working in Scotland had the highest pay gap (18.5%) compared to their colleagues without long-lasting health conditions or disabilities. Wales had the smallest gap at 11.6%.From the perspective of neurodiversity in the workplace, people with autism had one of the highest pay differentials in 2021. Their median pay was 33.5% less than non-disabled employees without a long-lasting health condition. However, the gap also narrows most to 9.9% when adjusting for personal and job characteristics.The disability pay gap also varies by gender. In 2021, the median pay for disabled women (£11.51 per hour) was 10.5% less than non-disabled women (£12.86 per hour). Median pay for disabled men (£13.25 per hour) was 12.4% less than non-disabled men (£15.12 per hour).“Tackling the disability pay gap will be crucial to widening the talent pool, as our own research highlights how important pay parity is to minority groups,” comments Simon Wingate. “Two-thirds (66%) of disabled people state they research a company’s gender pay gap before applying for a job, compared to 21% of people without a disability.“This sentiment, in conjunction with the newly released ONS report, demonstrates the attention and work that still needs to be implemented to ensure employers close their disability pay gap.”

Creating more inclusive recruitment procedures

Describing what employers can do to help bridge the gap and be a more inclusive employer, Simon Wingate said transparency and reasonable adjustments are key.“As a Disability Confident employer, Reed.co.uk recognises how important it is to support employees who disclose that they have a disability and will always seek to make reasonable adjustments for prospective candidates. “Every individual’s needs will inevitably vary, and it’s important that employers understand this and make appropriate adjustments to support suitable candidates who have applied for a job with them. "A fundamental way to attract prospective disabled workers is by being clear in job adverts that the organisation is an inclusive employer who values diversity and is willing to make reasonable adjustments to support candidates through the recruitment process and beyond."It is also helpful to be fully transparent about pay, flexibility, and benefits on job adverts as this will help employers attract a more diverse range of applicants to their role, and ultimately their business.”   Jill Cotton, Career Trends Expert at Glassdoor, comments: "The disability pay gap is a sign of missed opportunity. The UK is in the midst of an acute imbalance between labour supply and demand. Employers who think creatively can unlock new talent pools by seeking out overlooked workers such as those with disabilities or health conditions. Put simply, more needs to be done. “Glassdoor research found a third (32%) of UK workers believe the disability pay gap has become worse during the pandemic. “Furthermore, nearly one in two (45%) feel their company could be doing more to close this gap. Workplace transparency is proven to breed long-term success and levels the playing field for under-represented groups, such as disabled workers."

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