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Pandemic has hit disabled workers' finances hard, warns TUC

A new poll from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has found that two in five (40%) disabled workers in the UK have been pushed into financial hardship by the pandemic.

Almost three in 10 (28%) disabled workers said they have had to cut back on spending since the outbreak of COVID-19, compared with around two in 10 (18%) non-disabled workers.

Disabled workers were also twice as likely (22%) to say they were concerned about job security than non-disabled workers (11%).

This is despite Office for National Statistics (ONS) data showing that the proportion of disabled people in work has now returned to pre-pandemic levels.

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Gemma Hope, director of policy at disability charity Leonard Cheshire, said that action is needed to ensure disabled workers don’t fall into more hardship.

She said: “Disabled people have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and employment support is vital to ensure they’re not further left behind.

“We call on government to increase efforts to support disabled job seekers and recruiters to continue working with us in recognising the depth of talent available.”

Leonard Cheshire research found that stigma is still attached to employing disabled people, as one in five employers (19%) were more likely to employ a non-disabled person than someone with a disability.

Young disabled people could be especially at risk of further challenges too, as a majority (89%) of those asked aged 18-24 said their work had been affected by the pandemic.

Hope added: “Our research also suggests stubborn levels of stigma amongst employers and that young disabled people remain adrift in the current job market.”

There is also a disability pay gap of 16.5% in the UK.

This has fallen over the past 12 months (from 20%), however the TUC believes temporary measures, such as furlough, could be masking the real disparity between disabled and non-disabled employees.

It has called on employers and government to introduce disability pay gap reporting for companies with 50 or more employees, along with a duty on employers to provide concrete action plans for tackling any gaps that exist.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “With a cost-of-living crisis looming we need urgent action from ministers.

“As we saw with the last financial crisis disabled people are all too often first in line for redundancy, and those who keep hold of their jobs face a yawning pay gap.

“Disabled people deserve much better. We need mandatory disability pay gap reporting to shine a light on poor workplace practices that fuel inequality at work.”

TUC data was gathered by BritainThinks between the 13-21 May 2021 from a nationally representative sample of 2,134 workers in England and Wales.