First published on Left Foot Forward.
Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic disabled workers faced huge barriers getting into and staying in work.
The pandemic, and the huge changes it has caused to our everyday lives, has exacerbated the barriers disabled people face.
Not only have disabled people been disproportionately affected in terms of loss of life, with six in 10 Covid-19 related deaths being disabled people, but pre-existing workplace barriers have been accentuated by the pandemic.
And now, new data published by the TUC for our disabled workers conference shows disabled workers are much more likely to earn less than non-disabled workers.
That’s not right.
Having an impairment should never mean you get paid less or that you’re on worse terms and conditions. However, for too many disabled workers in this country, it is an all too true reality.
With spiralling inflation and eye watering bills, workers are having their income stretched in every direction. But for disabled people, the situation is even more challenging.
Let’s not forget – disabled workers face even higher living costs than non-disabled workers. So as the cost-of-living crisis continues to play havoc with everyone’s lives, we know that these workers are feeling the pinch even more.
But the challenges don’t end there.
Disabled workers also encounter more barriers in the workplace than non-disabled colleagues – with many worried that if they ask their employer for the reasonable adjustments they need to do their job, they’ll be refused outright.
New TUC analysis reveals disabled workers are much more likely to be paid less than their non-disabled colleagues – with those in the North of England and Wales even more likely to be paid less.
And we know that disabled people are more at risk of having to make the difficult decision between heating and eating.
With this cost-of-living crisis not looking like it’s going to end any time soon, things are only going to get worse. We need action now.
With the government too focused on its own political survival, ministers have done nothing to put the mind of disabled workers at ease.
Our call is clear: It’s time to end the pay disparity that penalises disabled workers and it’s time disabled workers get the support they need in the workplace.
At the TUC’s disabled workers conference, we heard from delegates about how the cost-of-living crisis is hitting disabled workers across the country. And we heard how we can build workplaces that work for everyone.
That means stamping out insecure work by banning zero-hour contracts, increasing the minimum wage and outlawing fire and rehire.
That means giving disabled workers fair access to request reasonable adjustments, and fining those employers who discriminate against workers because of any impairment.
And that means forcing employers to come with an action plan to report their disability pay and employment gaps.
This is a plan which will deliver and transform the lives of so many disabled workers across the country.
Ministers must step up and act now.
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