Large businesses could be required to report on disability in the workforce as part of a wider government plan to improve employment opportunities for disabled people.
The proposals were included in the government's National Disability Strategy, published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) yesterday (28 July), which aims to help bridge the gap that disabled people currently face when accessing education, skills development and employment opportunities.
As part of the strategy, the Cabinet Office will launch a consultation this year to look at voluntary and mandatory workplace transparency rules, including reporting on disability for large employers.
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The objective of diversity reporting would be to “improve inclusive practice across the UK’s biggest employers”, the strategy said, and would “[build] on existing gender reporting requirements”.
The strategy also outlined plans to promote and encourage take-up of a voluntary reporting framework to help large employers record and report information on disability, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
But, Victoria Wass, professor at Cardiff Business School, raised concerns that the strategy is more focused on consultation than policy implementation. “More consultation and further delay in implementation will be disappointing and frustrating for disabled people,” she said.
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Wass added that the majority of organisations don’t currently record the disability status of their employees, making implementing mandatory reporting “a much greater challenge than gender pay gap reporting”.
“Such information is the precursor to better managing disability inclusion and so this challenge needs to be met,” she said.
However, Kim Hoque, professor of human resource management at the University of Warwick, argued that “once disability employment reporting has been introduced, the introduction of pay gap reporting is relatively straightforward, given the first – and most important – step in calculating the disability pay gap is for the employer to identify their disabled employees”.
He added that disability pay gap reporting was “an obvious next step”, given that it is something the government has previously advocated for.
Accompanying the strategy, DWP also released the results of its UK Disability Survey which found that 56 per cent of disabled people who are not employed would like more support in finding a job.
Of the 14,000 people polled, less than half (48 per cent) said their employer made sufficient reasonable adjustments for disabled people, while only a quarter said their promotion opportunities were the same as their colleagues.
The National Disability Strategy paper also commits to piloting an Access to Work Adjustments Passport to support disabled people transition into employment, with a focus on education-leavers and veterans.
The government said it would launch an online hub for both disabled people and employers, with information and advice on disability discrimination in the workplace, flexible working and rights and employer obligations around reasonable adjustments.
But, Mark Hodgkinson, chief executive of disability equality charity Scope, said the strategy is not much more than a “one-year action plan”.
“Many of the short-term commitments made are to be welcomed, but the strategy falls short of the transformational plan that many disabled people expected and deserve,” he said.
Hodgkinson criticised the report for failing to outline “how and when it intends to close the disability employment gap”. He added: “Unless we get clear detail beyond the next 12 months, it is difficult to see how life will be significantly different for the next generation of disabled people.”
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of TUC, said the government has “missed the chance to act”, adding that “disabled people are far less likely to be in paid employment – and when they are, they are hit by a 20 per cent pay gap, which is growing year-on-year”.
She called on the government to strengthen the duty on employers to provide reasonable adjustments and to make flexible working a day-one right for workers, which she said “could be transformative for disabled workers”.