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Disability Pay Gap: Are Disabled People Working For Free?

The other day, I watched Steph’s Packed Lunch on Channel 4 and came across a statistic that was particularly eye-opening: that is that essentially, disabled people are working for free!


For context, it costs a household with a disabled adult or child an average of £975 more than a household than those without. So, a disabled person could be working, but what they are earning does not correlate to their living costs, so they are not operating to a point where they are able to become more independent.


It seems kind of backward, don’t you think? Disabled people have so much to bring to society! Some of the disabled individuals that spoke on Steph’s Packed Lunch were pioneers in multiple ways. Whether it was creating a clothing brand specially designed for people with disabilities or setting up a podcast or setting up cooking workshops. All of these people create incredible ideas that invite people in, rather than close them out.


What is needed is a proper evaluation of the existing system to ensure that disabled people can enhance their level of independence. There are benefits that people are eligible for, but in some circumstances, these will be taken away once you are beyond a certain threshold. This threshold was further changed, creating more uncertainty for disabled people. I don’t really understand myself why certain things are means tested, and certain things are not. Maybe we should take a leaf out of the book of places that have a simpler system to evaluate benefits eligibility. We should be doing something to give every disabled individual the same chance to thrive as non-disabled individuals.


The disability pay gap has surged from 6.2% last year to 8.3% this year, standing out as the only increasing pay gap. A collective effort is essential to improve the financial landscape for disabled individuals.


Strides have been made to create opportunities for disabled people to enhance independence. Yesterday, I went to a jobs fair at Coalville CAN, where I met some great individuals who wanted to get to a place where they could find employment. Despite strides in creating opportunities, in-work poverty persists for disabled workers, creating a sense of punishment for being employed. How is this right?


This raises questions about the high sick leave rates in the UK compared to other countries. Better support for disabled individuals could prevent the cascading effects, reducing unemployment due to health reasons. The knock-on effect is substantial. By offering competitive salaries, ample annual leave, and comprehensive employment benefits, we can significantly enhance the independence of disabled people. Learning from successful global models could drastically improve overall health outcomes. There needs to be significant efforts to put this at the top of the agenda.

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