Today marks International Day for persons with disabilities, which was proclaimed by the United Nations to promote awareness-raising around disability issues. Of course having designated days to recognise certain “groups” in society is not by itself the answer, but there is certainly no harm in raising awareness. Statistics published by the Office of National Statistics, which is the first analysis of disability pay gaps in the UK, reports that disabled employees are paid 12.2% less than their non-disabled peers on average. This is of course a snap shot figure and the analysis does not account for differences in employees' skill sets or work type, but the pay and employment disparity is undeniable. A recent Government consultation ("Health is everyone's business") sought views on different ways in which government and employers can take action to reduce ill health-related job loss, which included a consultation on reforming the current statutory sick pay regime, to make this more flexible.
Clearly, technological advances in the workplace have made an enormous contribution to making work more accessible and flexible for all. An example of the use of accessible technology on a large scale is the East London Inclusive Enterprise Zone, which is a fully accessible space for entrepreneurs and business leaders who are disabled or are focused on providing services that are also accessible to disabled individuals. However, in some cases, it can be relatively small scale and inexpensive changes by employers that can help (such as introducing homeworking and flexible working policies). In all cases, employers do of course have a statutory obligation to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace where an employee’s disability would put them at a substantial disadvantage compared with non-disabled colleagues.
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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that in 2018 the median pay for non-disabled workers was £12.11 an hour, against £10.63 for disabled. Disabled employees with mental impairments had the biggest pay gap at 18.6%, while the gap was 9.7% for the physically impaired.