Non-disabled workers are earning a sixth more than disabled workers, new figures show.
Analysis by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) found that the pay gap for disabled workers currently stands at £2.05 an hour – or £3,731 per year for someone working a 35-hour week.
This pay gap – which has increased from 16.5% last year – means that disabled people effectively work for free for the last 54 days of the year.
Disability pay gap by gender and age
The new TUC analysis reveals that disabled women face the biggest pay gap. Non-disabled men are paid on average 35% (£3.93 an hour, or £7,144 a year) more than disabled women.
The research also shows that the disability pay gap persists for workers throughout their careers. It starts at age 20 at 65p an hour and increases steadily with age to a peak of £3.55 an hour, or £6,461 a year, for disabled workers aged 40 to 44.
Regional and industrial disability pay gaps
The analysis looked at pay data from across the country and found disability pay gaps in every region of England.
The highest pay gaps are in the South East (22% or £2.78 an hour), and the West Midlands and the South West (both 17% or £2.20 an hour).
The research found that disability pay gaps also vary by industry. The biggest pay gap is in financial and industrial services, where the pay gap stands at 39% or £5.90 an hour, followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing (24%) and mining and quarrying and admin and support services (both 18%).
Not only are disabled workers paid less than non-disabled workers, they are also more likely to be excluded from the job market.
Disabled workers are now twice as likely as non-disabled workers to be unemployed (6.8% compared to 3.4%).
And the analysis shows disabled black & minority ethnic workers face a much tougher labour market – 10.9% of these workers are unemployed compared to 2.8% of white non-disabled workers.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everybody deserves a fair chance to get a job with decent pay. Being disabled should not mean you’re on a lower wage – or that you’re excluded from the jobs market altogether.
“It’s time to introduce mandatory disability pay gap reporting to shine a light on inequality at work. Without this, millions of disabled workers will be consigned to years of lower pay and in-work poverty.
“During the pandemic, many disabled people were able to work flexibly or from home for the first time. We must ensure this continues – flexible workplaces are accessible workplaces and give everyone better work life balance.
"Ministers must change the law so that all jobs are advertised with flexible options clearly stated, and all workers have the legal right to work flexibly from their first day in a job.”
Disability pay gap reporting
The TUC has written to women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch to call for urgent action to address the disability pay gap.
The union body wants the government to bring in mandatory disability pay gap reporting for all employers with more than 50 employees.
The TUC says the legislation should be accompanied by a duty on employers to produce action plans identifying the steps they will take to address any gaps identified.
Government action needed
To address the causes of the pay gap, the TUC is calling for:
The National Minimum Wage to be raised to £15 an hour as soon as possible.
More funding for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to enforce disabled workers’ rights to reasonable 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.
A stronger legal framework for reasonable adjustments including: ensuring employers respond quickly to requests, substantial penalties for bosses who fail to provide adjustments and for reasonable adjustment passports to be mandatory in all public bodies.
A day one right to flexible working for everyone and a duty on employers to include possible flexible working options in job adverts.