Is the disability employment gap getting wider?

Earlier this year, we reported on the UK government’s goal to see one million more people with disabilities in work was reached. According to Government reports, over one million more people with disabilities are in employment, compared to five years ago. A great achievement.

However, in contrast, new figures also show that there are more than 20,000 people with disabilities waiting for support through the disability employment programme. An alarming jump from just under 5,000 a year earlier.

Last month, further stats have emerged. Analysis by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) found that the pay gap for people with disabilities currently stands at £2.05 an hour – or £3,731 per year for someone working a 35-hour week.

This pay gap – which has increased from 16.5% last year – means that people with disabilities effectively work for free for the last 54 days of the year. The research also shows that the disability pay gap persists for workers throughout their careers too.

So, is the disability employment gap widening? And what can we as organizations do to address it?

In a recent article Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum commented, “All these things are very positive and one of Business Disability Forum’s central messages is around the importance of creating a culture where people feel able to bring their whole selves to work, to be open about disabilities and long-term conditions and to ask for the support that they need. That these cultures are being created, or worked towards, is in itself cause for celebration.”

But just hitting the headline figure is not the end of the story. Let’s not confuse getting one million more people with disabilities into the workplace with narrowing the Disability Employment Gap. The chasm between the employment rates of people with disabilities and those without is still there. Much more needs to be done to ensure we continue to shrink the gap.

Supporting workers with disabilities

First of all, we need to make sure we’re supporting all of our colleagues that have disabilities with the appropriate adjustments and accommodations.

Looking at the reports of the number of people with disabilities waiting on decision from the disability employment programme, the Government’s Access to Work scheme is under severe pressure. There’s reports of individuals having to wait more than four months for support from the Access to Work scheme. With waiting times like this, it’s fair to say that the disability employment gap is, in fact, worsening.

Creating an environment where everyone can feel encouraged and supported to bring their best selves to work is fundamental to narrowing the Disability Employment Gap.

At Texthelp, we're committed to making sure that neurodivergent individuals - those people who think learn and work differently - have the right support in place to allow them to thrive. Celebrating workers with disabilities is one thing, but we should also be proactive in our support. Providing a set of universal supports is a great way to get the ball rolling in our support of our colleagues with disabilities. Particularly for those who may find it difficult to identify as having a disability at work. Making tools and adjustments available for everyone means that no one needs to put their hand up to ask for additional support.

Supporting a neurodiverse workforce with technology

Much like universal design in architecture, where accessibility is at the heart of the design, we too can design our workplaces with support and inclusivity at the heart of everything we do. However, just 1 in 10 organizations say that they consider neurodiversity in their people management practices.

Inclusive tools in the workplace can be a great help for our neurodiverse colleagues.

Within the workplace it can come in the form of built-in accessibility features such as screen readers and speech recognition software, text to speech software and digital reading guides, as well as electronic spell checkers and word prediction. These are contained in a lot of the popular programs used across organizations. To go above and beyond, investing in the right tools for staff can help us to see increases in confidence, morale and retention.

Organizations who invest in the right tools for their staff see an increase in morale and retention. Read&Write for Work, as an example, is a reading and writing software tool. It helps employees to work in a way that suits them best. Employees can change the format of their digital documents. They can communicate in their preferred way. And, they gain access to accessibility features including text-to-speech and talk & type dictation.

The future of workplace inclusion

Driving workplace inclusion is everyone’s responsibility. From leadership and DE&I teams, to Human Resources and individual employees - we all have a part to play. We can each make an impact. Together we can drive cultural change at work. We recently hosted our Festival of Workplace Inclusion. It's a great place to start, or continue your journey to supporting your diverse workforce.

Keep reading

Neurodiversity in the workplace

Just like life outside, the workplace is a hugely diverse environment. We’re all unique with our own life experiences and personal preferences. They shape how we like to work and get things done. Our differences are the reason great things happen in the workplace. And, as we celebrate the strengths that diversity can bring, we must also be proactive in our support.

Disability Confident organizations

Read more about how to become a Disability Confident organization. We detail the steps you need to take in this handy guide. Before diving into your Disability Confident journey, find out how we started ours and how we continue to strive for an inclusive working environment for all.

Access to Work Grant scheme

Access to Work is a government-funded grant scheme to help people with disabilities - and those with a physical or mental health condition - to start or stay in work. The grant can help pay for specialist software - such as our very own Read&Write for Work software, adapted equipment, a support worker or travel expenses to and from work depending on the needs of the employee.