Remote working: the benefits for inclusion

Remote working has helped more people get into work, including people with disabilities. That’s something that should be celebrated.

Woman at home looking at laptop

 

An article last week from Bloomberg reported that people with disabilities have particularly benefited from the rise of remote work, with record levels of entry into the US workforce over the past three years. According to the Economic Innovation Group, the share of disabled employees working fully remote was 12.6% in early 2024, compared to 10.6% of employees without disabilities.

This is important, given the current concerns about the rise in the number of people in the UK who are unable to work due to long-term sickness and disability. Bloomberg also point out that, in the US, people with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed compared to their non-disabled counterparts. They are also overrepresented in low-paying jobs. In the UK between October to December 2023 the employment rate for disabled people was 54.2% and the rate for people who were not disabled was 82%. According to Scope, disabled people in the UK are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people, and three times as likely to be economically inactive.

That’s a lot of wasted potential. If remote or hybrid working can make a difference for some it’s surely a good thing. The problem is there are still not enough remote and hybrid jobs available. The most recent Timewise Flexible Jobs Index, published at the end of last year, found that the rate of job vacancies being posted with the promise of flexible working, had slowed down to pre-pandemic levels amid negative reports in some parts of the press.

In a labour market characterised by labour shortages and the CBI reporting that, by 2040, it is estimated that 1.4m more people will be retiring each year than those who are joining the labour force, it is surely vital that employers – and policymakers – seek to make work possible for as many people as they can. That is not the same as forcing people to work. Removing barriers to work is important, whether it’s for people with disabilities, carers, working parents, a crossover of any of these or whoever. That makes diversity and inclusion a key part of business and economic strategy. Let’s hope that after this week we will see a renewed interest in a positive attitude to inclusion.



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