Learning Disability Today
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One in four UK disabled workers in ‘severely insecure work’

a young school leaver working in an office

Roughly one in four (27%) disabled workers are in severely insecure work in the UK, according to new research from Lancaster University.

This compared to just 19% of non-disabled workers, making disabled workers 1.5 more likely to have an insecure job role.

The Work Foundation, a think tank which is part of Lancaster University’s Management School, is now calling on the government to tackle structural inequalities faced by disabled people in the labour market.

Disabled people over represented in lower pay and more precarious work

Nearly a quarter of working adults are disabled (23%) and over the last 10 years, the employment rate for disabled people has been approximately 30 percentage points lower than non-disabled people.

The research, which uses the Work Foundation’s ‘UK Insecure Work Index’, which combines three elements – employment contracts, personal finances, and access to workers’ rights – therefore set out to look at the drivers behind why those with disabilities are more likely to find themselves in insecure jobs, and the ways in which this insecurity affects different groups of disabled workers.

The analysis found that disabled people are over-represented in lower paid, more precarious work and are more likely to work part-time than non-disabled workers.

For some, a shorter working week will be a personal choice which helps to manage a long-term health condition or caring responsibilities, however, others will be pushed into insecure jobs without much choice over the matter.

Disabled workers are also less likely to be with the same employer for more than two years, which means they might miss out on key rights and protections, such as access to redundancy pay. This could reflect societal barriers to accessing secure jobs and underscores the need to raise the floor of working standards across the UK.

Some workers disproportionately affected by insecure work

The research (Figure 1) also revealed that:

  • Just 39% of disabled workers experience no form of insecure work compared to nearly half (47%) of non-disabled workers
  • An equal number (34%) of disabled and non-disabled workers experience low or moderately insecure work
  • 27% of disabled workers experience severely insecure work compared to 19% of non-disabled workers.

Some disabled workers were found to be disproportionately affected by insecure work such as women (who are 2.2 times more likely to experience severely insecure work than men), disabled workers from ethnic minority backgrounds (29% in severely insecure work compared to 26% of white disabled workers) and autistic workers (38% compared to 20% with other disabilities and conditions).

Removing barriers to secure employment

The Work Foundation is now calling on the government to improve contractual and employment rights for all workers. To do this, the government should:

  • Bring forward an Employment Bill within the first 100 days of the next Parliament
  • Mandate that employers embed flexibility in all roles
  • Work with employers to actively promote flexible working.

The Foundation is also calling on the Department of Work and Pensions to protect PIP claimants, widen the PIP eligibility criteria and give people the choice to undergo in-person or remote assessments.

The Foundation says these measures will help to prevent disabled people from being ‘pushed’ into insecure jobs, and will help to tackle the disability insecurity gap.

“Alongside the vision to help more disabled people to start, stay and succeed in work set out in the Health and Disability White Paper 2023, there is an opportunity to truly tackle structural inequalities faced by disabled people in the labour market,” they write.

The Foundation says they would like to see these short-term change implemented before the next General Election, as well as ongoing work to catalyse long-term transformation to improve the working experience of disabled workers by removing the barriers to more secure employment.

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