The pay gap for disabled people has increased to the point that disabled people effectively work for free for the last 54 days of the year and stop being paid today (7 November).
New analysis published by the TUC t shows that non-disabled workers now earn a sixth (17.2%) more than disabled workers, with the pay gap for disabled workers standing at £2.05 an hour – or £3,731 per year for someone working a 35-hour week.
This pay gap – which has increased from 16.5% last year – has led the TUC to brand 7 November this year as Disability Pay Gap Day.
The union body’s analysis revealed that disabled women faced the biggest pay gap, with non-disabled men paid on average 35% (£3.93 an hour, or £7,144 a year) more than disabled women.
The research also shows that the disability pay gap persists for workers throughout their careers. It starts at age 20 at 65p an hour and increases steadily with age to a peak of £3.55 an hour, or £6,461 a year, for disabled workers aged 40 to 44.
Analysing regional disparities, the research found that the highest pay gaps were in the south east of England (22% or £2.78 an hour), the West Midlands and the south west (both 17% or £2.20 an hour).
In terms of variations between sectors, the widest pay gap was in financial and industrial services, where the pay gap stood at 39% or £5.90 an hour, followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing (24%) and mining and quarrying and admin and support services (both 18%).
Exclusion from the job market was also a major challenge faced by disabled people with workers twice as likely as non-disabled workers to be unemployed (6.8% compared with 3.4%).
Disabled workers of colour faced a much tougher labour market, the study found, with 10.9% being unemployment compared to 2.8% of white non-disabled workers.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said everybody deserved a fair chance to get a job with decent pay and that being disabled should not mean people were put on a lower wage – or excluded from the jobs market.
She called for mandatory disability pay gap reporting and pointed out that during the pandemic “many disabled people were able to work flexibly or from home for the first time. We must ensure this continues – flexible workplaces are accessible workplaces and give everyone better work life balance.”
She suggested that ministers should change the law so that all jobs are advertised with flexible options clearly stated, and all workers were given the legal right to work flexibly from their first day in a job.
To this end, the TUC has written to women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch to call for urgent action to address the disability pay gap and to bring in mandatory disability pay gap reporting for all employers with more than 50 employees.
The TUC says the legislation should be accompanied by a duty on employers to produce action plans identifying the steps they will take to address any gaps identified.
To address the causes of the pay gap, the TUC is also calling for more funding for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to enforce disabled workers’ rights to reasonable adjustments, and for the national minimum wage to be raised to £15 an hour.