There’s Zero Progress to Bridge Disability Pay Gap, Says TUC

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The disability pay gap has not seen progress. 

In a recent report, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) sheds light on the disheartening reality of the disability pay gap, revealing a lack of progress over the past decade. 

The disability pay gap, a critical issue affecting the financial well-being of disabled workers, is now a staggering 14.6%, higher than it was ten years ago. This concerning trend is outlined in the TUC’s comprehensive analysis, underscoring the urgency for meaningful change.

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Current Landscape of the Disability Pay Gap

The TUC report emphasises that non-disabled workers earn approximately a sixth (14.6%) more than their disabled counterparts. This translates to a pay gap of £1.90 per hour or £66.50 per week, surpassing the average household’s weekly food shop cost (£62.20). The stark reality is that disabled individuals effectively work for free during the last 47 days of the year, a stark reminder of the persisting inequality in the workplace.

While there has been a slight decrease from the previous year, when the overall pay gap was £2.05 (17.2%) per hour, the current disability pay gap is higher than a decade ago, marking a troubling lack of progress. The report exposes not only the overarching pay gap but also dissects the disparities by gender, age, region, and industry.

Disabled women, according to the TUC analysis, face an even more significant pay penalty, with non-disabled men earning an average of 30% more (£3.73 per hour, £130.55 per week, or £6,780 per year) than their disabled female counterparts. This intersectional disparity compounds the challenges faced by disabled women in the workforce.

The pay gap, as outlined by the TUC, persists throughout workers’ careers. Starting at £1.73 per hour for disabled workers at age 25, it peaks at £3.18 per hour (£111.30 per week) for those aged 40 to 44. This highlights the systemic nature of the issue, demonstrating that the pay gap is not a temporary hurdle but an enduring challenge for disabled individuals throughout their working lives.

Geographically, the analysis exposes regional variations, with Wales, the South East, and the East of England having the highest disability pay gaps. Furthermore, the pay gap varies across industries, with financial and industrial services showing the most significant gap at 33.2% (£5.60 per hour). These variations underscore the need for targeted interventions that consider regional and sectoral nuances.

Unemployment Rates and Zero-Hours Contracts

Unemployment rates for disabled workers are also alarmingly higher, with a 6.7% unemployment rate compared to 3.3% for non-disabled workers. Disabled Black, Minority, and Ethnic (BME) workers face an even tougher labour market, with a 10.4% unemployment rate compared to 2.6% for white non-disabled workers. This stark contrast in employment rates emphasizes the intersecting challenges faced by disabled individuals, particularly those from marginalized communities.

The TUC report also delves into the prevalence of zero-hours contracts among disabled workers, revealing a 4.5% rate compared to 3.4% for non-disabled workers. Disabled BME women, in particular, are nearly three times as likely (6.0%) as non-disabled white men (2.2%) to be on these insecure contracts. The TUC argues that such contracts, by handing employers total control over workers’ hours and earning power, exacerbate the challenges faced by disabled workers, making it difficult for them to plan their lives and advocate for their rights.

Addressing the pressing issue of the disability pay gap requires a multifaceted approach. The TUC advocates for government action and endorses Labour’s New Deal for Working People as a potential game-changer. 

The proposed measures include mandatory disability pay gap reporting, strengthening flexible working rights with a day-one right to work flexibly, and banning zero-hours contracts. These steps, according to the TUC, are essential to ending the discrimination faced by disabled workers in the job market.

Creating Accessible Workplaces: Employer’s Role in Bridging the Gap

Employers play a crucial role in making workplaces more accessible for disabled employees. Creating an accessible workplace involves more than physical accommodations; it requires a shift in organizational culture and a commitment to inclusivity. 

Employers can start by embracing the principles of the Disability Confident Employer scheme, which encourages businesses to actively recruit disabled individuals and create accessible recruitment processes. The three-tiered accreditation system offers a structured approach for organisations to demonstrate their commitment to disability inclusion.

Moreover, employers must recognise that disabilities extend beyond physical impairments. Mental health conditions, neurodiversity, and other non-visible disabilities are equally important considerations. Creating an inclusive environment involves providing support and reasonable adjustments tailored to individual needs, ensuring that no one is left behind or overlooked.

 For more on disability discrimination, visit our guide here.

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The TUC’s report on zero progress in bridging the disability pay gap serves as a wake-up call for employers, policymakers, and society as a whole. The pressing need for change demands a comprehensive and collaborative effort to dismantle systemic barriers and foster a workplace where every individual, regardless of ability, can thrive. It’s time to spotlight accessibility, inclusivity, and equality, ensuring that the next decade brings tangible progress in narrowing the disability pay gap.

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