New research from mobility experts reveals the accessibility concerns facing disabled workers across the UK, and how businesses can support them
The latest UK population figures suggest that a fifth of working-age Brits are currently classed as disabled, and data from 2021 showed that the number of disabled people in employment was more than 50 per cent higher than ten years earlier. Alongside this, more people are reporting long-term health conditions or disabilities than ever before – a figure that is being driven by an increase in mental health conditions.
But despite the growing number of people who live with mental health conditions, the employment rate is much lower for people with disabilities. To understand why, mobility solutions experts Middletons Mobility have looked into how the increased population of disabled Brits are being supported in their places of work and what UK businesses can do to help their disabled employees in the workplace.
The Disabled Workforce
The number of disabled people in employment in the UK increased from 2.9million in 2013, to more than 4.4m in 2021 according to latest government findings. While the increasing number of disabled people joining the UK workforce can be attributed to factors like the overall working-age population and prevalence of disabilities, the employment rate gap between disabled and non-disabled Brits is glaring.
Despite the massive growth in employment for Brits with disabilities, only 53.5% of disabled people aged between 16 and 64 years are currently in employment, versus the 81.6% of non-disabled people of the same age group. Furthermore, a gap was seen in the employment rates between disabled and non-disabled British men (31.1%) than for women (24.8%).
The employment rate is lower still for people with severe or specific learning disabilities such as those with Autism Spectrum Disorder and those with mental illness.
How Businesses Can Support Disabled Employees
While there is currently government help available for eligible disabled employees to provide support in the workplace, there are also many ways individual businesses can help their disabled workforce. From simply revising policies to ensure they are inclusive of all staff to providing education around certain disabilities that impact teams within the business, employers must be aware of and provide assistance for the barriers that disabled people face at work.
“Flexible working is a buzz term that is not going anywhere as people are searching for terms like ‘work from home’ 30,000 times per month on average in the UK. If working from home isn’t an option, then simply addressing working hours, personal breaks and shift patterns can also support employees with disabilities, as can adjusting responsibilities of the employee.”
“Making a workplace accessible for disabled employees is a huge show of support from a business, especially if additional equipment or devices can be available for these employees. Installing ramps for mobility scooters or wheelchairs, modifying furniture to allow for wider access, or providing a sensory-free environment for overstimulated workers are all ways businesses can support their staff who have additional needs.”
Ricky Towler, Founder of Middletons
Industries, Roles and Self-Employment
The research revealed that disabled people are more likely to be working in health, retail and education sectors than any other, with these industries accounting for 42.6% of disabled workers, and only 35.4% of non-disabled workers. Disabled workers are least likely to work in agriculture or forestry and fishing sectors, accounting for less than 1% of the total workforce in these industries.
It also highlighted that the gap between the proportion of disabled and non-disabled workers who are self-employed has been closing for a number of years. In 2021 figures showed that 13.6% of disabled workers were self-employed, compared to 12.7% non-disabled self-employed workers, a decline in both cases from 2013.
Analysis further showed that disabled workers are less likely to be in senior or management roles than their non-disabled colleagues, but more likely to be in lower-skilled occupations (despite qualifications), or in part-time work – presumably to allow for flexibility.
Middletons – To learn more about how businesses can support the disabled workforce, please visit: https://middletons.co.uk/blogs/travel-and-things-to-do/accessibility-in-the-workplace
The Employment of Disabled People 2021 The number of disabled people in employment has increased by,(see table 1a below)
Workplace Wellbeing Professional is an online magazine featuring news and analysis on a broad range of employee wellbeing topics, focused on a UK based audience.