The pay gap between non-disabled and disabled workers is now higher than it was a decade ago, reigniting calls for mandatory disability pay gap reporting and a day one right to flexible work.
New analysis published by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) shows that non-disabled workers earn around a sixth (14.6%) more than disabled workers.
The analysis reveals that the pay gap for disabled workers across the board is £1.90 an hour, or £66.50 per week – over what the average household spends on their weekly food shop (£62.20).
That makes for a pay difference of £3,460 a year for someone working a 35-hour week – and means that disabled people effectively work for free for the last 47 days of the year and stop getting paid today, on the day the TUC has branded Disability Pay Gap Day.
“Zero progress” on disability pay gap
The pay gap has fallen since last year, when the overall pay gap was £2.05 (17.2%) an hour.
The new analysis shows that the disability pay gap is now higher than it was a decade ago (13.2% in 2013/14) when the first comparable pay data was recorded.
And the gap is only slightly lower than when the TUC first launched Disability Pay Gap Day using 2016/17 data (when it was 15.0%).
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 30% (£3.73 an hour, £130.55 a week, or £6,780 a year) more than disabled women.
The research also shows that the disability pay gap persists for workers for most of their careers. At age 25 the pay gap is £1.73 an hour hitting a high of £3.18 an hour, or £111.30 a week, for disabled workers aged 40 to 44.
National, regional and industrial disability pay gaps
The analysis looked at pay data from across the country and found disability pay gaps in every region and nation of the UK.
The highest pay gaps are in Wales (21.6% or £2.53 an hour), followed by the South East (19.8% or £2.78 an hour) and the East of England (17.7% or £2.30 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 a huge 33.2% (£5.60 an hour).
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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 twice as likely as non-disabled workers to be unemployed (6.7% compared to 3.3%).
And the analysis shows disabled BME workers face a much tougher labour market – one in 10 (10.4%) BME disabled workers are unemployed compared to nearly one in 40 (2.6%) white non-disabled workers.
The analysis shows that disabled workers are more likely than non-disabled workers to be on zero-hours contracts (4.5% to 3.4%).
And disabled BME women are nearly three times as likely as non-disabled white men (6.0% to 2.2%) to be on these insecure contracts.
The TUC says zero-hours contracts hand the employer total control over workers’ hours and earning power, meaning workers never know how much they will earn each week, and their income is subject to the whims of managers.
The union body argues that this makes it hard for workers to plan their lives, look after their children and get to medical appointments.
And it makes it harder for workers to challenge unacceptable behaviour by bosses because of concerns about whether they will be penalised by not being allocated hours in future.
'New Deal for Working People'
The TUC is calling for government action to end the discrimination disabled workers’ face in the jobs market.
The union body says Labour’s New Deal for Working People would be a “game changer” for workers’ rights.
Labour has pledged to deliver new rights for working people in an employment bill in its first 100 days.
Labour says its new deal would:
Introduce disability and ethnicity pay gap reporting.
Strengthen flexible working rights by introducing a day one right to work flexibly.
Ban zero-hours contracts to help end the scourge of insecure work.
Give all workers day one rights on the job. Labour will scrap qualifying time for basic rights, such as unfair dismissal, sick pay, and parental leave.
Ensure all workers get reasonable notice of any change in shifts or working time, with compensation that is proportionate to the notice given for any shifts cancelled or curtailed.
Beef up enforcement by making sure the labour market enforcement bodies have the powers they need to undertake targeted and proactive enforcement work and bring civil proceedings upholding employment rights.
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “We all deserve to be paid fairly for the work we do. But disabled people continue to be valued less in our jobs market.
“It’s shameful there has been zero progress on the disability pay gap in the last decade.
“Being disabled shouldn’t mean you are given a lower wage – or left out of the jobs market altogether.
“Too many disabled people are held back at work, not getting the reasonable adjustments they need to do their jobs. And we need to strengthen the benefits system for those who are unable to work or are out of work, so they are not left in poverty.
“It’s time for a step change. Labour’s New Deal for Working People would be an absolute game changer for disabled workers.
“It would introduce mandatory disability pay gap reporting to shine a light on inequality at work.
“Without this legislation, millions of disabled workers will be consigned to many more years of lower pay and in-work poverty.”