Disability pay gap falls to 13.8%

The disability pay gap has narrowed slightly between 2019 and 2021, according to official statistics.

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The disability pay gap, the gap between median pay for disabled employees and non-disabled employees, fell in 2021 to 13.8% from 14.1% in 2019, but remains higher than the 11.7% figure for 2014, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Interestingly, the disability pay gap has consistently been wider for disabled men than for disabled women; in 2021 median pay for disabled men was 12.4% less than non-disabled men, and median pay for disabled women was 10.5% less than non-disabled women.

The ONS figures also show that Scotland had the widest disability pay gap in the UK at 18.5%. The pay gap was also higher for those who were consistently limited a lot in their day-to-day activities compared to disabled employees whose day-to-day activities were limited a little (12.1% in 2021).

Disabled employees with autism as their main impairment had a wider pay gap in 2021 than other disabled people with the figures showing a median pay gap of 33.5% compared to non-disabled employees without a long-lasting health condition. Disabled employees with autism (as their main impairment type) had the largest reduction in the pay gap after controlling for different characteristics which may affect pay (for example, occupation, qualification level or age), with the adjusted pay gap being 9.9%. However,  disabled employees with difficulty in seeing and with severe disfigurements, skin conditions or allergies (as their main impairment type) saw an increase in their pay gaps after controlling for personal characteristics. The pay gap for disabled employees with difficulties in seeing increased from 0.0% to an adjusted 10.5%, and for disabled employees with severe disfigurements, skins conditions or allergies increased from negative 2.8% to an adjusted 6.2%.

The ONS report also includes modelling for profession and education level and shows significant decreases in the pay gap in those circumstances.

Gillian Jones-Williams, managing director of Emerge Development Consultancy, said: “The problem with the disability pay gap is that it is still looking predominantly at registered disabilities and people tend to perceive this as ‘people in wheelchairs’. Disability is so much wider than that, and includes mental health issues and hidden disabilities. But often, as with so many diversities and protected characteristics, the disability is all the person hiring sees and this can lead to them perceiving the candidate will be grateful for the job offer and will accept whatever package is offered. We must avoid tokenism and instead look at people’s strengths, improve inclusive recruiting practices and regularly benchmark wages.”

Meanwhile, a report from the Business Disability Forum, has stated that mandatory disability workforce reporting is not the answer to solving the disability gap, given there is no clear link between the percentage of disabled people employed and their experiences in the workplace and no clear agreement on how disability is defined.

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