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Jessica Clough


In this week’s article, Jessica Clough, Chartered Legal Executive in the Employment team, looks at the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Report on the Disability Pay Gap which was published on 25 April 2022.

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By now, we are all used to hearing about Gender Pay Gap, but what about the Disability Pay Gap? It isn’t (yet!) something that employers are required to report on as part of their Gender Pay Gap reporting duties and so may not be something that employers have really considered in relation to their own workforce.

The ONS Report is based on data collected from the Annual Population Survey (APS) and looks at median hourly earnings. It follows on from the ONS report on Disability Employment Gap from February 2022, which looked at the proportion of disabled people in work.

The April Report found the disability pay gap has been gradually widening over the years. In 2021 the gap was 13.8%, as opposed to 11.7% in 2014. In real terms this means that the average hourly earnings for disabled people in 2021 were £12.10/hour vs £14.03/hour for a non-disabled person.

It can’t all be blamed on the pandemic as the highest gap so far was actually in 2019 (14.1%). The pandemic may have in fact been of benefit to some people with disabilities as remote working removed physical barriers to work and the quiet and lack of social interaction when working from home may have benefitted those who found busy office environments overwhelming.

The ONS Report in April found that:

  • Of the four UK nations in 2021, Wales had the smallest disability pay gap (11.6%), followed by Northern Ireland (12.3%), England (14.1 %). Scotland had the widest gap at 18.5%.
  • Within the regions of England for 2021, the North East and London had the lowest disability pay gaps (6.4% and 6.5% respectively) and the East of England had the highest disability pay gap at 16.1%.
  • The disability pay gap for disabled men vs not-disabled men is consistently higher than the gap for disabled women vs not disabled women (12.4% for men vs 10.5% for women in 2021).
  • Those in senior and highly qualified occupations (such as Directors and senior professionals in technical occupations) had the highest disability pay gap (10 – 10.4% for 2021), perhaps reflecting that disabled adults are less likely to be employed in the most senior and highly paid roles.
  • Those disabled employees who were more limited in their day to day activities had a wider pay gap (19.9%) than those whose activities were only slightly limited (12.1%).
  • It is perhaps not surprising that they found the higher number of disabilities a person has, the wider the pay gap (11.7% for 1 disability vs 19.5% for those with +6 disabilities).
  • The gap was widest for disabled employees with autism– a whopping 33.5% less than for non-disabled employees. However, after adjusting for personal and job characteristics (i.e using data modelling to adjust for age, location of job and other factors) this narrowed the gap for those with autism as their main disability to 9.9%. The skew in the figures was largely due to 3 out of 5 of all autism reported in the survey was in the under 25 age group. After modelling the data, the worst pay gap was for those with Epilepsy (11.3%) and sight issues (10.5%).

What can employers do to bridge the gap?

The Government is currently considering the results of its consultation on whether to make Disability Reporting mandatory for large employers (in the same way that it has with Gender Pay reporting) and its response is expected in June 2022.

Research shows that diverse teams drive performance. A greater variety of perspectives and backgrounds has been shown to result in better decision making and companies with diverse executive teams posted bigger profit margins than their less diverse competitors.

A sector which is realising the benefits of having a neurologically diverse workforce is the Tech sector, specifically in the area of computer programming, where employers such as Google and Microsoft have realised the beneficial skills that those with autism spectrum disorders can bring to their work, such as extreme focus and attention to detail, lateral thinking and problem solving skills.

Employers wanting to recruit and retain disabled employees should focus on creating a supportive working environment.

It isn’t just about installing lifts and ramps, it is about removing hidden barriers for disabilities too, valuing what those with other perspectives can offer the business and creating better opportunities for career progression. Things such as:

  • providing appropriate adjustments and facilities for disabled employees such as an office quiet space for employees to retreat to if they are feeling overwhelmed.
  • having an open and supportive culture where those with disabilities feel able to disclose them without fear of how this might affect their opportunities at work.
  • training managers to understand about the challenges different disabilities can bring and how to support employees with those disabilities effectively.
  • training hiring managers in what increased diversity can bring to the table – new ideas, new experiences and different skills.
  • having strong board level leadership to support Diversity and Inclusion strategies throughout the business.

How we can help

We can assist you with all your Diversity and Inclusion needs from developing a Diversity and Inclusion strategy which identifies and addresses any areas for improvement, to providing training to your leaders and managers on equality and diversity and inclusive leadership.

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.


Get in touch

If you have any questions relating to this article or have any other employment legal matters you would like to discuss, please contact the Employment team on [email protected]

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