UK Employability Statistics relating to Disabled People

Experience of Disabled People

7.5 million people of working age in the UK are disabled or have a long-term health condition. That is 1 in 5 of us. Despite this, just half of disabled people are employed, compared to 81% non-disabled people[1]. With little change in this figure in the last decade, it is clear that we need to think innovatively to reimagine work in a way that will enable us to react to a changed and changing workforce. For many people who are disabled or have a longterm health condition, entering the labour market is a daunting and disempowering process. Disabled people frequently encounter significant barriers when taking their first steps into a fulfilling career.

The high rate of economic inactivity of disabled people also demonstrates the key challenges they face. Between April and June 2017, 3.3 million disabled people of working age were economically inactive; 44.4% compared to a rate of 16.1% for nondisabled people[2].

Research has shown that the introduction of mandatory activity to prepare for employment while claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by the government in its welfare reform programme is largely ineffective in facilitating people’s entry into or progression within the paid labour market over time[3]. Any period of involuntary worklessness will have a significant impact on future employment outcomes[4]. Longer periods of absence from the workplace lock disabled people into a cycle of low economic inactivity in which they face greater barriers to returning to the workplace and are twice as likely to remain unemployed when compared to non-disabled people[5].

Disabled people face additional barriers when seeking work. 37% of disabled people report that they don’t feel confident about securing a job and believe employers won’t hire them because of their impairment or condition. 40% unemployed disabled job seekers don’t feel confident about their chances of finding a job in the next six months. 27% believe they are less likely to be hired than a non-disabled candidate[6].

The barriers faced by disabled people in accessing the workplace begins early, with a lack of attainment among young disabled people. At the age of 26, disabled people are four times more likely to be out of work or not in education compared to non-disabled people[7]. Low expectations play a role, as well as a lack of opportunity when preparing for the workplace and a lack of opportunities in careers guidance and skills development.

Disabled people often feel a lack of confidence that they will be treated fairly in the recruitment process:

New research by Opinium found that disabled people need to apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled jobseekers before they are successful in finding work[9].

A report by Scope found that only 49% of disabled employees are aware of their employment rights[10]. Asserting rights and entitlements in the workplace as a disabled person can be a fraught process, particularly when adaptations are being sought from a hostile or unreceptive employer. Particular language skills, a high level of confidence and knowledge of the system are often required.

Attitudes among employers

Recent research[11] by Leonard Cheshire shows that, despite some progress in employers’ attitudes in recent years, an understanding gap persists among employers when hiring staff. Employers stated that a disability would have an impact in their recruitment processes.

Access to Work offers provisions to support disabled people to work by funding adjustments (technology, travel, support) that go beyond what might be considered ‘reasonable’ for the employer to fund; and by providing direct advice and assessment. A survey by the Centre for Social Justice found only 25% of employers knew what the ‘Access to Work’ programme was and understood the help that they could get from this service. Only 45% of employers understand clearly what it means to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people under the Equality Act 2010[12].

[1] Leonard Cheshire, 2019

[2] House of Commons Library, People with disabilities in employment briefing, Number 7540 (30 November 2018).

[3] Welfare Conditionality: Sanctions, Support and Behaviour Change, 2013 – 2018 (June 2018)

[4] Good Work: The Taylor Review of Modern Work Practices (2017)

[5] Taylor Review, citing ONS People in employment on a zero-hours contract (March 2017)

[6] Opinium survey commissioned by Scope (September 2018)

[7] Papworth Trust, Disability Facts and Figures (2018)

[8] 2018

[9] Opinium, October 2017, Disabled people need to apply for 60% more jobs

[10] Scope, November 2017, Let’s Talk: Improving conversations about disability at work

[11] Leonard Cheshire/ComRes 2018 Line manager survey

[12] CSJ, March 2017, Rethinking disability at work