Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Disability in the workplace: The Walters Report 2021

For the second year in a row, The Robert Walters Report has highlighted imbalances and complex matters to do with gender, sexuality and disability in the workplace. 

The key findings of this report have been investigated by The Kaleidoscope Group, who provide a platform for empowering disabled employees and entrepreneurs.

From the report’s findings, The Kaleidoscope Group conclude that the disabled community as employees are disproportionately affected by imbalances in the workplace. 

Disability representation in the workplace 

In the UK, one in five people have a disability. However, the latest government figures show that out of the 7.7 million disabled people of working age, only 4.1 million (53.6%) are currently in work. This compares to 81.7% of those who are not disabled.

The report discusses why this figure is so slow, including issues around business inclusion, barriers to progression and workplace experience.

Disabled employees and progression

The report found that nearly half (47%) of disabled professionals do not think their pay is an accurate reflection of their work. This compares to 35% of non-disabled employees. 

Additionally, 22% more disabled professionals said that the lack of diversity in their industry has made it more difficult for them to progress compared to non-disabled professionals; while 36% of disabled professionals said there is a lack of training or development on offer to help them progress.

Unachievable performance targets also seem to contribute towards an inability to progress, with 40% more disabled professionals saying their biggest progression barrier is that their targets are set too high, compared to non-disabled professionals. 

There is also a substantial disability pay gap, as the report highlights only a third (35%) of disabled professionals are earning above the average national UK salary (£30,000), in comparison to over half (52%) of professionals without a disability. 

Government data supports these findings, reporting that this persistent disability pay gap means disabled workers are more likely to be negatively affected by financial stress than non-disabled workers.

Disabled employees and management 

Another reason for the disability pay gap is the lack of disabled professionals in management positions. The report found that only a third of disabled professionals work at management level or above, while 31% believe that their manager does not take the time to understand their personal circumstances.

Furthermore, less than half (46%) of disabled professionals believe their that their organisation has initiatives that help them feel part of a connected community of colleagues. This compares to 55% of professionals without a disability. 

Disabled professionals voiced the need for better social initiatives to be put in place as a way for employers to improve cohesion, with over a third (35%) saying they do not feel connected, compared to a quarter (25%) of professionals without a disability.

“The experience that people with disabilities have continues to be under-valued during businesses’ hiring, retention and promotion processes”

Sam B, Head of Talent Acquisition and Client Relations at The Kaleidoscope Group said: “Whilst it is proven that people with disabilities are more loyal and take fewer sick days than employees without disabilities, the soft skills and experience that people with disabilities have continues to be under-valued during businesses’ hiring, retention and promotion processes. People with disabilities may already be underemployed in an organisation.

“In addition, they may have had barriers to the education that businesses formalise as being ‘required’ to be hired into, or to progress into, managerial level positions. They may have lacked access to vocational training, or financial resources. Employers’ perception of disability and discrimination within an organisation, or even digital exclusion from hiring or promotion processes, can negatively impact access to career opportunities. All of these factors can restrict or block fair opportunities to progress.”

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