There is a comprehensive talent pool of disabled people wanting to work that UK businesses are missing out on due to prejudice, fear and the basic unawareness of the possibilities, causing a significant employment gap between disabled and non-disabled individuals.

Problems can worsen as people with disabilities become disheartened by their chances in the job market and as a result become less likely to apply for roles that suit them.

The negative effects aren’t only felt by businesses and individuals with disabilities, but also by the economy. The Department for Work and Pensions has stated that even a 10% increase in the employment rate amongst disabled adults would result in a £12 billion contribution to the UK economy in the next 12 years.

What is the ‘disability employment gap’?

According to the latest statistics (2017) the difference between employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people, also known as the UK disability employment gap, was still at a formidable 31.3 percent, with only a 1.9 percent improvement recorded in the last 2 years.

When applying for jobs, disabled individuals have often found that their skills and abilities were overlooked simply due to their disability.

The statistics make it very clear the general attitude towards disabled people and disabilities in the workplace still requires a lot of improvement

Government promises

Pledges by the government have aimed to reduce the gap throughout the years and within the ‘Improving lives: the future of work, health and disability’ whitepaper published in 2017, the government has set out strategy on getting more disabled people in work.

In their manifesto the Conservatives even made the overly ambitious pledge to increase the number of disabled people in work by 1 million in just 10 years. However this has been challenged by disability charity ‘Scope’ as this pledge unfortunately seems highly unfeasible, a sentiment shared by many disabled job seekers.

Where employers are lacking

Not only due to clear prejudice, but also because many employers lack a basic understanding of their responsibilities and the help and advice that is available to employers recruiting disabled individuals. Employers can strongly benefit from having a diversity and equality procedure in place.

A great example of help available to employers is the ‘access to work’ programme. This programme provides funding to businesses to cover the costs of making workplace adjustments to accommodate for specific disabilities of employees.

Statistics highlighting disability discrimination

Statistics published by the ONS show that during the spring of 2017 there were 346,000 disabled people actively seeking work in the UK within the working age, equating to an unemployment rate of 9 percent compared to 3.8 percent for those without disabilities.

In addition, nearly 4 million people with disabilities were neither in work nor seeking work. This equates to an inactivity rate for disabled people of 45.9 percent compared to just 16.2 percent of those without disabilities.

Perception on disability discrimination and equality

Some will undoubtedly suggest that this gap is an expected and reasonable result as disabled people may be less able to perform basic tasks.

However, when ‘Opinium’ surveyed 2,000 disabled people they found that:

  • Disabled individuals need to apply for 60 percent more jobs than non-disabled applicants to find work
  • More than a third of interviewed disabled individuals did not feel confident about getting a job due to their impairment
  • Two in five unemployed disabled people did not feel confident in their chances of finding work in the next six months,
  • More than a quarter of unemployed disabled people believe that they are less likely to be hired than non-disabled applicants
  • More than half of interviewees stated they felt they needed to apply for positions they were actually over-qualified for, with one in three admitting they did so as they felt their disability made them less attractive candidates


If you are interested in diversity and inclusion or finding out more about transforming your company culture to be more diverse and inclusive you may be interested in our Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2018 held in London on the 19th April. Click here for more details.