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9th September 2019

Mind the ‘double discrimination’ disability gap

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Employers need to be mindful not just of the “disability gap” when it comes to employment but “double discrimination” around the employment and retention of women with disabilities, argues Steven Dean.

Research conducted by the Trades Union Congress in May 2018, showed that the disability pay gap was at a four-year high.

And yet, in the past year, little has been done to address the issues for disabled women. A background paper put to UN Women noted that disabled women had “been invisible, both to the advocates of women’s rights and of disability rights”. For protection, as for any other industry, it is important to ensure nobody gets left behind.

Particularly in the workplace, the “double discrimination” disabled women are likely to face leads to a valuable pool of willing workers being overlooked, or worse, dismissed, which can impact productivity, output and the protection gap.

When combining the effect of the gender and disability pay gaps, disabled women earn 22.1% less compared to their non-disabled male peers on average. Moreover, while there are more UK women with disabilities in work than men in absolute terms, around two million compared to 1.5 million, it is worth noting that there are actually more women of working age with disabilities than men. Despite the higher number of disabled women, disabled men have proportionally better chances of finding employment.

The lack of employment opportunities disabled women face, despite protections enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, exacerbates a nationwide problem of a lack of protection insurance. The protection gap across the UK was estimated at £2.6 trillion by the ABI in 2012.

What can be done to address this? Awareness, education and proactivity are vital. As the war for talent intensifies, employers need to be aware of the opportunity they are missing out on. Equal hiring should not only be a theoretical possibility through appropriate policies; employers must also take steps to shift cultural perceptions and make it known that they welcome applications from all.

For more information on the 'double discrimination disability gap', you can read the Personnel Today article here.