A welcome change of focus for the government who have promised to address the disability employment gap, which is persistent at around 30 percent, but has focused on pushing disabled people into work and punishing disabled people on benefits through sanctions and assessments.
It has been difficult, as a disabled person, an activist and a policy wonk in this area, hearing the government commit to halving the disability employment gap but not hearing a similar commitment to tackling the disability pay gap; a gap which TUC research shows to be at 15%.
It’s been even hard listening to the government to tell disabled people to work is good for them, ignoring the fact that not everyone is able to work. It’s been hard watching the government put in place punitive benefits sanctions, which bite on the most vulnerable and enact policies that have led to deaths.
So a proposal that gives knowledge and power to disabled people allowing them to make an informed choice on who they work for and where they choose to spend their money is a welcome one.
In brief, the three recommendations call for:
These recommendations seem simple but are recommendations I can support, and that’s because they are all about informed choice.
Consistency in data collection and analysis will help disabled people make an informed choice on which employer to work for. We know as the existing data is clear that people with certain disabilities are more or less likely to be employed. So being able to tell that an employer has disabled people like you within their employment and they are progressing is a powerful incentive, or, if they do not, a disincentive, to work for them.
Understanding how effective an employer’s recruitment, retention and progression policies are, in ensuring equal chances for disabled staff, will again allow for informed choice. A choice that goes beyond the workplace but also allows disabled people to make decisions on where to shop or show other forms of patronage. Employers who show they have no or a low pay gap or have clear action plans to address what they’ve found could well attract more of the purple pound, estimated to be worth £249 billion to the economy, while those who are not could be penalised.
These recommendations will help address the disability employment and pay gaps but more importantly reshape employers attitudes towards employing people with a disability as they are made more aware of how their own policies and practices perpetuate workplace inequalities and how that affects their bottom line and public profile.
I think there is still more work to do to address inequalities in the workplace for disabled workers; for example I would like to see the government make the right to request flexible working a day one right and employers give a firm commitment to work with unions and disabled people when writing their narrative and actions plans on addressing any pay gap in their workplaces. Stil,l these are a welcome change and reflect TUC recommendations and policy.