The poll of 2,700 workers by the TUC and GQR found that the current disability pay gap for all employees stands at 15.5%. This gap means that disabled people effectively work for free for the last 57 days of the year.
The analysis found that disabled workers earn on average £1.65 per hour less than non-disabled workers, which is a gap of around £3,000 per year based on a 35-hour week.
It also revealed that disabled workers are more likely to resort to going without basics to get by than other workers. A third (34%) of disabled workers have cut back on food for themselves and 35% have gone without heating on a cold day, compared to 18% and 17% of non-disabled workers respectively.
Meanwhile, a fifth (20%) of disabled workers said they have put off buying children’s clothes because of a lack of money, compared to 12% of non-disabled workers.
The TUC said the disability pay gap is due to cuts in social support for disabled people. It said the replacement of the Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has led to fewer disabled people qualifying for financial help. The body said that PIP is frequently wrongly denied to people, with 68% of appeal hearings finding in favour of the claimant.
In May this year a United Nations envoy condemned the current government as “punitive, mean-spirited and often callous” in its treatment of the country’s poorest, and highlighted the removal of financial support for many disabled people.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the government had "failed" disabled people, who bear the brunt of austerity measures. “Everybody deserves a fair chance to get a job with decent pay. Being disabled should not exclude you from choosing to work. And it should not mean you’re put on a lower wage,” she said.
“The current government has behaved like it just doesn’t care. From PIP to pay, it has failed disabled people. Support for independent living has been scrapped. And at every turn disabled people have been at the frontline of austerity.”
The government must introduce legislation to make it mandatory for employers to publish disability pay gaps, she added: “The next government must show it cares about disabled people in Britain. A good start would be a new law to make employers publish their disability pay gap and a plan of action to address it.”
The TUC also found that not only are disabled people paid less, they are also less likely to be in employment than their non-disabled peers. Only around half (51.8%) of disabled people are in work, compared to more than four-fifths (81.6%) of non-disabled people, equating to a gap of 29.8 percentage points.
James Taylor, head of policy, campaigns and public affairs at Scope, said that closing disability pay and employment gaps must be a priority for employers and the government: "Everyone should be doing their utmost to close this gap as quickly as possible. The million disabled people want to work but are denied the opportunity.
"The next government must commit to halving the disability employment gap, which has been stuck around 30% behind for more than a decade," he said.
Simon Morris, group HR director at DDD Group, added that reporting on disability pay gaps is only part of the solution. "The analysis conducted by the TUC raises a really interesting but concerning issue, and it is disappointing to see such a disability pay gap still in existence in 2019. The gender pay gap issue has shown that issues like this are sometimes complex to solve. While reporting on disability pay gaps may be part of the solution, changing behaviours will require all stakeholders to work together in different and new ways," he told HR magazine.
"Only by bringing together all stakeholders (government, trade unions, industry, charities...) can we start to make progress and create equality for all employees – irrespective of gender, race, background or disability status."
The TUC's analysis also showed geographical differences. The disability pay gap was widest in the East of England (21.8%), followed by Wales (17.7%), Yorkshire and Humberside (15.4%) and the West Midlands (15.3%).
The pay gap was calculated using the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey data from 2018 Q3 and Q4 and 2019 Q1 and Q2.