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Rachel Pinto: Bridging the disability employment gap

Thursday 02 June 2016

Rachel Pinto discusses the disability employment gap.

Rachel Pinto

Rachel Pinto

Rachel is a Senior Research Officer at Acas focusing on policy research.



The Government have pledged to halve the disability employment gap by 2020, but what is the gap and why does it need to be bridged?

A new Work Foundation report launched last week shows that around 73 per cent of the working age population are in employment.  However, when looking at those specifically with long-term health conditions, the employment rate reduces to 59 per cent, and is even lower still at 42 per cent, for those with mental illness. 

It's clear that those with physical or mental disabilities, or long term conditions, are less likely to have the same employment opportunities as those with no health conditions at all. 

The disability employment gap affects everyone, not just those with long-term health conditions.   From a wider economic perspective, being out of work as a result of on-going health conditions is likely to have a negative impact on other areas of social life, such as problems with housing and debt. Around 58 per cent of those with health conditions on the Government's Work Programme also claim Job Seeker's Allowance.  Therefore, holding a job also often means holding on to your financial independence.

For the individual too, work is more than a financial benefit; it also brings many social benefits too in terms of interacting with others and developing skills. Long spells out of work are likely to lead to anxiety, isolation and a lack of confidence - all inhibitors to finding a new job.

In addition, bearing in mind the UK's ageing population, and the drive towards working for longer, managing a long term health condition while being in employment will soon become the norm and is likely to affect all of us at some point in our careers.  So halving the disability employment gap is more than just a percentage target, it is about the new reality of working life in the future.

Acas works with an array of employers of all shapes and sizes, many who are keen to develop and seek guidance when in difficulties.  We have also done a lot of work on recognising the benefits of fairness at work. This means tackling negative behaviours and valuing the contribution of all employees. We know that employers would like to do more for those with disabilities and long-term health conditions, but they don't necessarily know how to go about it. 

We are keen to showcase some of the positive examples of how employees with disabilities and long-term health conditions have been supported. So if you have a story to tell please get in touch and share your experiences. Let's all put the focus on bridging the disability employment gap.

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