Business leaders call for mandatory reporting on disabled people in the workforce

Open letter urges government to act on ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to address the disability employment gap

UK business leaders have urged Boris Johnson to do more to address the disability employment gap.

In an open letter to the prime minister, bosses of the Post Office, Schroders and Clifford Chance, among others, have called for mandatory reporting on the number of disabled people in the workforce, and for there to be more supported routes into employment for people with disabilities.

“Equality of opportunity to succeed at work is key to progress,” the letter said. “Tried and tested changes, such as gender pay gap reporting for big business, is already transforming the conversation in the boardroom.

“Unless we harness the talent of people with lived experience of disability and ensure they are driving and leading the conversation, from shop floor to senior management, the conversation will never change and the barriers will remain.”

In the letter, the signatories call on the government to accept the recommendations due to be made later this week by the Centre for Social Justice Disability Commission, which will include mandatory workplace reporting.

As the government prepares its National Strategy for Disabled People, Lord Shinkwin, chair of the Disability Commission, said there was a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to reduce the disability employment gap.

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“The prime minister’s strategy represents a once-in-a-generation chance to chart a new way forward where disabled people’s potential to contribute, compete and, in some cases, excel and reach the top of their professions, on merit, can at last be realised,” said Shinkwin.

“We have one shot at this – that’s why it’s so important his strategy gets it right. What makes this even more exciting is that big business is ready to get behind him.”

The Disability Commission’s report will also call for the development of supported internships for disabled people that involve job coaches and the reform of the government’s ‘access to work’ scheme to reduce the administrative burden of the application process.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, between April and June last year the employment rate among disabled people was just 53.6 per cent, compared to 81.7 per cent for the rest of the population.

The unemployment rate for disabled people was also nearly double that of the rest of the population (6.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively), and the economic inactivity rate – the percentage of working-age people who are not in work and not actively looking for a job – was nearly three times higher than the rest of the population (42.3 per cent and 15.3 per cent respectively).

On Wednesday, Shinkwin is expected to give evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee as part of its inquiry into the disability employment gap.