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How can organisations close the disability employment gap?

How do you drive Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace? We’ve partnered with specialist diversity and inclusion organisations: Qlearsite, CV Library, Pearn Kandola, The Kaleidoscope Group, and the Inclusive Group to survey 7,500 Irish and UK professionals - to understand the career challenges and workplace experiences through the lenses of Gender, Ethnicity, Age and Disability.  Access the full strategic D&I report here.

Professionals with visible and invisible disabilities face significant barriers to employment. The latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) data reveals that disabled people were over a third less likely to be employed than nondisabled people, with an employment rate for disabled people (aged 16 to 64 years) of 53.2% in 2019, compared with 81.8% for non-disabled people.

The Disability chapter in the D&I Strategy Report analyses the career challenges, workplace experiences and sentiment of disabled professionals active in the UK and Irish labour markets. We've outlined the three biggest challenges faced by disabled employees in the workplace and key recommendations on how to address the issues:

1. Greater barriers to employment and progression

  • Disabled people in the UK are over a third less likely to be employed than their counterparts (53% in 2019 as compared to 82%)
  • Less than a third (32%) of disabled professionals are in a managerial level role or above, as compared to 40% of professionals without a disability
  • Our research revealed:
    • Disabled professionals are less likely to know how to go about getting a promotion. Only a quarter of employees with a disability have been offered a promotion at their current company and less than half have been promoted when they have worked for the same employer for 3 years or more, compared to the majority of non-disabled receiving a promotion after 3 years
    • Just over 1 in 3 disabled individuals in the workplace report a lack of training or development
    • Disabled professionals are more likely to feel that the company culture has negatively impacted their progression in the workplace

2. Lower success rate in salary negotiations

  • Disabled professionals are less likely to negotiate their salary, and when they do, they are less likely to receive a salary increase than their non-disabled counterparts
  • The under-representation in higher level jobs has led to a substantial disability pay gap - only a third of disabled professionals earn above the UK average, in comparison to over half of their non-disabled counterparts
  • Disabled workers are more likely to be negatively affected by financial difficulties and stress

3. Limited support from their manager and colleagues

  • Almost 1 in 3 disabled professionals do not think their manager takes the time to understand their personal circumstances
  • When asked what they thought made it difficult to access opportunities, they cited ‘a poor understanding of disabilities’ amongst the top issues
  • More than 1 in 3 disabled professionals feel disconnected from their work colleagues


What are the inclusion issues for disabled employees?

Unfortunately, for those with disabilities, access is still an issue. Only half of disabled professionals agree that resources and facilities are equally accessible to all. This number is lowest of all for those with a physical or sensory disability at only 46% - that’s compared to 61% of those without a disability. 

Disabled employees also do not feel the same level of acceptance and belonging as those without disabilities, and report disability prejudice. According to a report by Scope:

  • 1 in 3 disabled people feel there’s a lot of disability prejudice
  • 1 in 3 people see disabled people as being less productive than non-disabled people
  • In 2000, 37% of disabled people and 34% of non-disabled people felt that there was a lot of prejudice around disability. The gap trebled by 2017, with 32% of disabled people and 22% of non-disabled people feeling there is a lot of prejudice against disabled people

Our research showed 12% of disabled professionals strongly disagree that their organisation embraces and celebrates people's differences - that’s more than double than that of non-disabled employees. Over a third of disabled employees also don’t feel their opinions are valued as much as other employees.  

Even more worryingly, when disabled employees were asked what their organisations could do to make them feel more included, they spoke about putting an end to discrimination and bullying. The research shows that these issues were cited far more often for those with disabilities than their non-disabled counterparts. What is apparent is that there is a lot of fear around disclosing their disability, making a complaint, or drawing attention to their disability in some way - due the potential knock-on effects of doing so. 

Understanding the differing needs that exist within your organisation and building a culture where everyone can feel included will be the ultimate competitive advantage for organisations trying to tackle D&IFor more information on supporting employees with disabilities in the workplace, download the D&I Strategy Report today.


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