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New poll finds disabled workers have been “hit hardest” in the wallet by Covid-19 and have faced financial hardship, increased debt and have been forced to use food banks

Accompanying new TUC analysis finds non-disabled workers are now paid 16.5 per cent more a year than non-disabled workers

And disability charity Leonard Cheshire highlights discrimination against disabled workers, with 1 in 5 employers less likely to employ disabled people
  • New poll finds disabled workers have been “hit hardest” in the wallet by Covid-19 and have faced financial hardship, increased debt and have been forced to use food banks 

  • Accompanying new TUC analysis finds non-disabled workers are now paid 16.5 per cent more a year than non-disabled workers 

  • And disability charity Leonard Cheshire highlights discrimination against disabled workers, with 1 in 5 employers less likely to employ disabled people 

Two in five (40 per cent) disabled workers have been pushed into financial hardship over the last year, according to new TUC polling published today (Tuesday). 

The polling – carried out for the union body by BritainThinks – shows how disabled workers’ living standards have been “hit hardest” by Covid-19. 

And leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire is today adding its voice to TUC’s, publishing new research which shows the continuing stigma against disabled workers, and calling for action to break down barriers to employment for disabled people. 

Financial hardship 

Two in five (40 per cent) disabled workers told the TUC that they’ve faced financial difficulty during the pandemic compared to around one in four (27 per cent) non-disabled workers. 

They said that they had experienced: 

  • Increasing debt: More than one in six (16 per cent) of disabled workers said their level of debt have increased compared to around one in 10 (11 per cent) non-disabled workers. 

  • Cutting back on spending: Around three in 10 (28 per cent) disabled workers had been forced to cut back on spending, compared to around two in 10 (18 per cent) non-disabled workers. 

  • Using food banks: Disabled workers (six per cent) were twice as likely to have had to visit a food bank than non-disabled workers (three per cent). 

Disabled workers (22 per cent) were also twice as likely to say they were concerned about losing their jobs than non-disabled workers (11 per cent). 

‘Disability pay gap day’ 

The poll findings are published alongside new TUC analysis which shows that non-disabled employees earn on average £1.90 an hour (16.5 per cent) more than disabled employees – or £3,458 more a year (based on a 35-hour week).  

That means disabled workers effectively stop getting paid today, and work for free for the last 52 days of the year. The TUC has branded today ‘disability pay gap day’. 

And disabled women face an even bigger pay gap. Non-disabled men are paid on average 32 per cent (£3.50 an hour, or around £6,370 a year) more than disabled women. 

The £3,458 pay gap is the equivalent of: 

  • More than a year (13 months) of the average household expenditure on food and non-alcoholic drinks (£63.70 per week) or 

  • Nearly a year (10 months) of the average expenditure on housing, fuel and power (£83.00 per week) or 

  • Nearly a year (10 months) of what the average household spends on transport (£81.60 per week). 

Leonard Cheshire research 

Leading global disability charity Leonard Cheshire is releasing new research today which reveals that disabled workers say they have been left behind by the Covid-19 recovery. 

The Leonard Cheshire study finds that the vast majority (89 per cent) of disabled young people aged 18-24 years old said that their work had been affected by the pandemic, and that one in five employers (19 per cent) would be less likely to employ a disabled person than a non-disabled person. 

The TUC and Leonard Cheshire are urging the government to act now to close the disability employment and pay gap and ensure disabled people gain and retain quality employment.  

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Disabled workers have been hit hardest by Covid-19. Many have been pushed into financial hardship and left without a safety net. 

“With a cost-of-living crisis looming we need urgent action from ministers.  

“As we saw with the last financial crisis disabled people are all too often first in line for redundancy, and those who keep hold of their jobs face a yawning pay gap. 

“Disabled people deserve much better. We need mandatory disability pay gap reporting to shine a light on poor workplace practices that fuel inequality at work. 

“Without this, millions of disabled workers will be consigned to years of lower pay and in-work poverty.” 

Director of Policy at Leonard Cheshire Gemma Hope said: “Disabled people have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and employment support is vital to ensure they’re not further left behind. 

“Our research also suggests stubborn levels of stigma amongst employers and that young disabled people remain adrift in the current job market. 

“We call on government to increase efforts to support disabled job seekers and recruiters to continue working with us in recognising the depth of talent available.” 

Government action needed 

The TUC is calling on the government to deliver: 

  • Mandatory disability pay gap reporting for all employers with more than 50 employees. This should be accompanied by a duty on bosses to produce targeted action plans identifying the steps they will take to address any gaps identified. 

  • Enforcement of reasonable adjustments: The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should get specific funding to enforce disabled workers’ rights to reasonable adjustments. 

  • A stronger legal framework for adjustments: The EHRC must update their statutory code of practice to include more examples of reasonable adjustments, to help disabled workers get the adjustments they need quickly and effectively. This will help lawyers, advisers, union reps and human resources departments apply the law and understand its technical detail. 

Editors note

Notes to editors: 

- Polling: The BritainThinks online survey was conducted between the 13-21 May 2021 with a sample of 2,134 workers in England and Wales – nationally representative according to ONS Labour Force Survey Data. For more information please visit:  

- What is disability pay gap day? The TUC introduced disability pay gap day in 2019. It is the day of the year when the average disabled person stops being paid, compared to the average non-disabled person. The overall disability pay gap of £1.90 an hour is calculated by a TUC analysis of Labour Force Survey statistics from 2020 Q3 and 4, and 2021 Q1 and Q2. 

Equality Act disabled 

Not Equality Act disabled 

Average hourly pay (£) 



Gap (£) 

£1.90 (16.5%) 

- Pay gap by gender: pay gap compared to non-disabled men 

Median average hourly pay (£) 

Median average hourly pay gap (£) 

Pay gap (%) 

Non-disabled men 


Disabled men 




Non-disabled women 




Disabled women 




- Disability pay gap: The TUC notes that the disability pay gap has fallen over the last 12 months, from 20% last year to 16.5%. But the union body believes this may have been affected by the temporary factors currently affecting pay data, as set out by the Office of National Statistics:  

- Disability employment gap: Only around half (52.2%) of disabled people are in work, compared to four in five (80.9%) of non-disabled people – a gap of 28.7 percentage points.  

- Causes of the disability pay and employment gaps: Many disabled people face a range of barriers to getting and staying in work, from a lack of transport to get there, or inadequate equipment or adjustments made once they are there. Other factors driving the pay and employment gaps are: 

  • Part-time working: A higher proportion of disabled people than non-disabled people work part-time. These are paid less per hour than full-time jobs.  

  • Low-paid work: Disabled people are over-represented in lower paid jobs like caring, leisure and other services and sales and customer services. 

  • Education: Some disabled people leave education earlier than non-disabled people. However, even where disabled and non-disabled people have the same qualifications there is still a big pay gap. 

The pay gap is also linked to unlawful discrimination, structural barriers and negative attitudes, says the TUC. 

- Disability pay gap reporting: To address the disability pay gap, the TUC wants the government to bring in mandatory disability pay gap reporting for all employers with more than 50 employees. The legislation should be accompanied by a duty on employers to produce targeted action plans identifying the steps they will take to address any gaps identified, including ensuring disabled workers with invisible impairments feel confident in completing workplace equality monitoring. 

- Weekly average household expenditure on food and non-alcoholic drinks, fuel and power and transport are taken from ONS figures:  

- Unfair treatment: In June the TUC published polling which showed that nearly one in three (30 per cent) disabled workers say that they’ve been treated unfairly at work during the Covid-19 pandemic:  

- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 49 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 

- About Leonard Cheshire: We are Leonard Cheshire – supporting individuals to live, learn and work as independently as they choose, whatever their ability. Led by people with experience of disability, we are at the heart of local life – opening doors to opportunity, choice and support in communities around the globe. We support people to live their lives as freely and as fully as they choose. Visit: or follow us on Twitter: @Leonard Cheshire 

- Leonard Cheshire research methodology: Savanta ComRes interviewed 1,201 working age disabled adults (18-65) in the UK between 20 August-13 September 2021. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of working age disabled adults in the UK by age, gender and region. Savanta ComRes interviewed 518 UK line managers with a responsibility for recruitment online between 20 August-13 September 2021. Data were weighted in both instances to be nationally representative of employers by region, company size and sector. Savanta ComRes are a member of the British Polling Council and abide by its rules. 


TUC press office 
020 7467 1248 

Leonard Cheshire press office 
Samuel Buckley:  
Jonathan Sim: 
07903 949 388 

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