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How the conservative government can keep disabled voters

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Sixteen million people in the UK are disabled, 23% of which are working-age adults. This means that 3,680,000 adults are living with a disability in the UK. 

Despite this figure, the employment rate for disabled people stands at 53%, a staggering 29% lower than that of non-disabled individuals (82%). This disparity highlights a substantial labour gap, with disabled people being almost twice as likely to be unemployed as their non-disabled counterparts.

In response to these worrying statistics, equality charities like Disability Rights UK are urging the government to do more to bridge the labour gap for disabled workers. Indeed, there are measures introduced in the Disability Employment Charter that outline a comprehensive set of actions the government can implement to address the challenges faced by disabled workers and foster a more inclusive employment landscape.

Key Measures to Bridge the Disability Employment Gap

Disabled people face persistent and significant disparities in the labour market, as evidenced by the wide and persistent disability employment gap. Fortunately, the Disability Employment Charter outlines the necessary actions the government must take to address these challenges and promote the inclusivity of disabled employees.

Mandate Reports on Employment and Pay Gaps

Requiring all employers with 250 or more employees to publish annual data on disability employment rates would improve transparency and accountability among organisations. Analysing pay gaps and representation across pay quartiles sheds light on potential disparities in remuneration and career progression among disabled and non-disabled people. This measure not only encourages further accountability but also prompts organisations to proactively address inequalities against disabled people in their workforce.

Support Disabled People Through New Employment Programmes

The government needs to expand access to employment programs, apprenticeships, and supported employment initiatives to provide disabled individuals with the necessary support and opportunities to enter the workforce. Supported employment initiatives provide a roadmap for disabled individuals to navigate the challenges of entering the workforce. At the same time, tailored career advice ensures that disabled individuals receive guidance aligned with their unique needs and aspirations, increasing their chances of successful employment.

Reform the Access to Work Scheme

The Access to Work scheme can help individuals get or stay in work if they have a physical or mental health condition or disability. You are able to get a grant to help pay for practical support with your work, as well as support for mental health and money to pay for communication support. But reforming the Access To Work scheme would ensure that disabled individuals have access to the financial assistance they need to thrive in the workplace. This includes removing the support cap so that financial assistance is commensurate with the individual needs of disabled workers, as well as streamlining application and renewal processes which reduce bureaucratic hurdles, making it easier for disabled individuals to access support efficiently.

Reform the Disability Confident Scheme

The Disability Confident scheme was developed to encourage employers to recruit and retain disabled people and those with health conditions. However, as the scheme is optional for employers, there are improvements to be made. For example, establishing minimum thresholds for the percentage of disabled people in the workforce for employers at Disability Confident Levels 2 and 3 would drive tangible progress towards disability inclusion. Additionally, removing accreditation from employers who fail to advance from Level 1 within three years would encourage continuous improvement amongst employers, ensuring that organisations actively evolve in their approach to disabled workforce inclusion.

Leverage Government Procurement

Integrating disability employment considerations into public sector contract award decisions would incentivise companies to prioritise employing disabled workers, aligning economic encouragement with social responsibility. Requiring government contractors to work towards a minimum threshold for disabled people to be further represented in the workforce and holding them accountable for achieving this goal would actively promote and reward disability inclusion and diversity.

Make Essential Adjustments To The Workplace

Mandating timely responses to adjustment requests for disabilities fosters a more inclusive workplace where disabled employees feel acknowledged and accommodated for their unique needs. Similarly, if employers establish flexible work arrangements, irrespective of job roles, the workplace can further recognise and accommodate diverse abilities for a more inclusive workplace. Furthermore, introducing stronger rights to paid disability leave, and increasing Statutory Sick Pay to the European average (55-70% of the worker’s average income) helps to further financially support those with disabilities.

Work With Disability Representatives

Requiring employers to collaborate with disabled employees and representatives regarding disability equality plays a pivotal role in ensuring that diverse voices and perspectives of disabled individuals influence workplace culture. Also, offering statutory time off for trade union equality representatives emphasises the critical importance of their roles, providing them with the time to effectively advocate for the needs and rights of disabled workers. This dual approach ensures that workplace policies are informed by the lived experiences of disabled people while empowering representatives to create more inclusive work environments.

Offer Online Advice and Support

The government should create a comprehensive resource hub that can be found on a centralised online portal that benefits both employers and disabled employees alike. This can help organisations navigate the intricacies of disability employment to facilitate informed decision-making, fostering an environment that is inherently conducive to disability inclusion. 

Track National Progress on Disability Employment

The government should take into account the increasing number of people with disabilities when measuring the disability employment gap which gives a more accurate picture of the situation. Using the 'prevalence corrected' employment gap measure ensures that our assessments truly reflect the changing demographics of the workforce. This approach helps us better understand and address the challenges faced by disabled individuals in the workforce.

The Government Needs to Utilise a Disability Charter

The government has a comprehensive roadmap that they can utilise to address the significant disparities faced by disabled individuals in the labour market. By implementing the measures outlined in the Disability Employment Charter, the government can foster a more inclusive and equitable employment landscape, ensuring that disabled individuals have equal opportunities to thrive in the workplace. 

The government must act swiftly and decisively to implement these changes, not only to close the persistent employment gap but also to fulfil its moral obligation to ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to contribute their talents and skills to the workforce.

[ This article was compiled by ABLE2UK reader Jake Michael, a writer for Mobility Solutions Direct ]

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