Government urged to introduce disability pay gap reporting for employers

Research shows disabled workers earn 15 per cent less than other staff and rate of employment also lags significantly

Campaigners have called on the government to introduce legislation that will force employers to publish their disability pay gap, along with a plan to address it, as new analysis showed disabled workers earned 15.5 per cent less on average than their colleagues. 

According to TUC analysis of official statistics, workers who are classified as disabled under the Equality Act earn an average hourly wage of £10.63, compared to £12.28 for other employees. This amounts to around £3,000 less per year, based on a 35-hour working week. 

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said the government had “failed disabled people”, and that “the next government must show they care about disabled people in Britain today. A good start would be a new law to make employers publish their disability pay gap and a plan of action to address it.”

“Everybody deserves a fair chance to get a job with decent pay,” added O’Grady. “Being disabled should not exclude you from choosing to work. And it should not mean you’re put on a lower wage.”

The TUC accused the government of resisting calls for publication of the disability pay gap, and said that “very little progress” had been made on a 2015 manifesto promise to halve the disability employment gap. 

The new figures, taken from Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, also showed a disparity in the employment rate of disabled people compared to the rest of the population. The employment rate for disabled people was 52.6 per cent in the three months to June 2019, compared with 81.5 per cent for those not classified as disabled. 

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This constituted a 1.4 per cent increase in the employment rate of disabled people since last year, compared with a 0.1 per cent rise for the rest of the population.

Paul Holcroft, associate director at Croner, said disability pay gap reporting, as advocated by the TUC, would likely be along similar lines to gender pay gap reporting, which large companies are now legally required to undertake. The government has said it will legislate for ethnicity pay reporting, although this has not yet materialised.

However, he added that “the logistics of the disability pay gap reporting would arguably be much more complicated than with the gender pay gap because of the variables involved.”

Holcroft said: “What categories would be used for comparison? Would it be as simple as ‘disabled vs non-disabled’? The fewer categories used, the less valuable the data will be, and the more categories used, the more complicated it will be for employers, increasing the risk for errors in the data. Employers would need detailed guidance to assist them.”

On the pay gap faced by disabled workers, he highlighted there was no legal provision allowing employers to pay their disabled employees less for the same job. “Any employer doing this is leaving themselves open to an employment tribunal claim for disability discrimination,” he said.

James Taylor, head of policy and public affairs at disability equality charity Scope, said: “We know that disabled people too often face barriers getting into, staying in and progressing in work.

“We can only tackle disability unemployment if we understand the scale of the problem. Yet our research found fewer than one in five employers currently collects information about disability in the workplace. Without this data, many businesses are still in the dark about the experiences of their disabled employees.

“Making it a legal obligation to report on disability in the workplace will put employers in a much stronger position to recruit and retain disabled talent.”

Separately, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced updates to its Disability Confident scheme, designed to encourage workplaces to make themselves more accessible to disabled workers. The changes, which can be expected “imminently”, according to the announcement, included requiring businesses signed up to the highest level of the certification scheme to publicly report the number of disabled people on their payroll. 

Currently, out of 15,000 organisations signed up to the scheme, just 263 businesses are classed as Disability Confident Leaders – the highest level of accreditation.

The government did not provide further information on what the new reporting requirements would involve, but said businesses would use a “voluntary reporting framework” in order to publish the employment figures.

Work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey said she was calling on all businesses “to take a look at their record on disability employment and think about what they can do to help create a more equal Britain”.