What is the Disability Employment Gap & How Can Employers Reduce it?

Posted on Thursday, 20th Oct '22

Duane Jackson by Duane Jackson

In today’s modern world, where there is less of a stigma surrounding disabilities of any kind as well as an abundance of adaptive technology, accessing work has never been easier. However, there is still a disability employment gap and employers are still struggling to find ways to employ those who are able to work but disabled.

1 in 5 of the working age population are classed as disabled or with a long-term health condition. This includes mental health conditions, musculoskeletal conditions and chronic illness, as well as many others.

Across those with disabilities, there is a significant employment gap compared to those who are not disabled. The current disability employment gap is 28.4% as of Q2 2021, bringing us back to pre-pandemic levels.

What is the Disability Employment Gap?

The Disability Employment Gap is a government measure to understand the statistical difference between those who are disabled and working compared to the non-disabled and working population. This data is then taken and analysed to discover the barriers preventing disabled people from entering the workforce.

There is a disability employment gap, and while there are disabled people who require full-time care and therefore are unable to work, there are many disabled people who are able to work, but due to employment barriers, cannot find jobs that protect their physical and mental health.

What is the difference between the Disability Employment Gap and the Disability Pay Gap?

The Disability Employment Gap looks at the percentage of disabled people who are in, or not in, work. The Disability Pay Gap is a data set that looks at the median hourly earnings of disabled vs non-disabled people.

Together, these two data sets and analysis provide a useful insight into the disparities between disabled and non-disabled people in the workforce.

What factors affect disability employment?

The three main factors that affect disability employment are, according to the Office for National Statistics:

  • an increase in the disabled population
  • a strong labour market (prior to the pandemic)
  • a narrowing of the disability employment gap

One of the main reasons that the disabled population has increased is the recognition of long COVID as a disability. Along with this, the increase in poor mental health, which is classed as a disability, has also increased beyond forecasts.

How can employers and HR professionals help overcome the disability employment gap?

1. Creating inclusive hiring processes

Inclusive hiring processes aren’t just about how you interview a person, it’s about ensuring that you ask them for any specific requirements and create a system that allows everyone to demonstrate their best selves.

You may need to revisit your candidate descriptions and include language that would appeal to a wider breadth of people, by using ‘they’ instead of ‘he/she’ or including alt text on any images. You might also want to rethink what your actual requirements for the job are, focusing on skill sets and thought processes rather than qualifications and restrictive personality traits.

2. Providing a disability and working assessment for everyone

By carrying out a work assessment for each employee, you get to understand better how they work. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has a Health Ability Passport Guide that provides a framework of questions, which can help employers understand where they can support their employees best.

Even for non-disabled employees, carrying out this exercise can help to identify preferred ways of working, and provide absolute equality so that disabled employees feel less of a burden on employers. Feeling like a burden to an employer is a common emotion that many disabled employees may feel. Therefore, opening up processes to everyone ensures that no one feels isolated.

3. Using digital technology to help manage business functions

For many disabled people, traditional paper processes are restrictive and a huge limiting factor to employment. From paper contracts to traditional phone calls, there can be huge issues and barriers for disabled people when attempting to carry out everyday tasks in the workplace.  

As such, migrating to digital technologies creates many more opportunities. There is a variety of specialist technology that can assist with this, such as screen readers, text to speech programs and even live transcript for video calls.

All these technologies enable disabled people to enter the workforce and therefore embrace working life and bring with them learned experiences.

4. Creating supported internships and training programs

For many people with disabilities, getting access to work can often be tricky, as they may have not been able to acquire the skills needed by employers. A supported internship or training program can help a variety of people gain access to the workplace and provides employers with a variety of well-trained and skilled workers that are a perfect fit for the role.

Through creating targeted training programs for disabled and neurodivergent people, you can work with a specialist training provider who is able to deliver that additional level of support and expertise needed to fully develop people to be their best selves.

5. Education of able-bodied/neurotypical employees

A final core part of the puzzle is educating other people on how disabled or neurodivergent people work. Blanket approaches and rules are often unknowingly restrictive, so it can work to educate all staff on how they can help.

This inclusive training should be repeated regularly and should encourage open and honest conversation.

It could be as simple as avoiding the use of sayings, being explicit in instruction or making all meetings online by default to help if an employee has to work from home for some reason.

How Staffology HR can help

With Staffology HR, you make employee management simple. Whether someone needs to request work from home last minute, needs a personal development plan or you just need a flexible timesheet solution, we can help.

Get a demo today

Duane Jackson, October 20th, 2022

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