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Disabled workers 1.5 times more likely to be in severely insecure work

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Disabled workers are one and a half times more likely to be in severely insecure work than non-disabled workers, according to new research. 

Think tank The Work Foundation uses the UK Insecure Work Index to define job security, basing insecure work on employment contracts, personal finances and access to workers’ rights. 

Its study found there are 1.3 million disabled workers trapped in insecure work in the UK and 430,000 want to work more hours.


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Ben Harrison, director of the Work Foundation, said excluding disabled workers from quality work has a negative effect on the economy as it could cause them to leave the labour market all together. 

He said: “The UK economy is under pressure.  

“Our labour market continues to hold record numbers of vacancies and the numbers of workers on long-term sick is at record levels. Yet structural inequalities remain, stopping many groups of workers from accessing the good quality work they deserve. 

“While the government’s pledge back in 2017 to get ‘one million more disabled people back into work within a decade’ may have been achieved five years early, the strategy of pushing them into ‘any work’ rather than quality, secure work risks not only workers’ health, but also that of the wider economy. 

“Having a bad experience or feeling trapped in severely insecure work can worsen their conditions, or can push them to leave the labour market altogether.” 

There are also intersectional challenges for disabled workers.  

Disabled women were found to be 2.2 times more likely to be in severely insecure work than disabled men.  

Meanwhile, disabled workers from ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely to be in severely insecure work at 29%, relative to 26% of white disabled workers. 

Angela Matthews, head of policy and research at non-profit Business Disability Forum said inaccessible hiring systems and lack of reasonable adjustments form a major barrier for disabled workers. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Many disabled people find it difficult to get jobs due to inaccessible application systems and non-inclusive recruitment assessments, and they can also struggle to stay in work, predominantly due to lack of adjustment, or because of bullying or hostile team environments.” 

Research from the BDF has found one in eight disabled employees wait over a year to get the reasonable adjustments they need.  

Matthews said employers need to ensure that high-quality work is flexible enough for employees to manage their conditions. 

She said: “Permanent work is also very structured and many employees push to get flexible arrangements in place.  

“While many employers might be okay to let employees take a couple of hours off to attend medical or therapy appointments, the level of flexibility needed when someone has regular flare-ups or has to have regular operations, can feel more complex to employers.  

“Often, disability or leave policies don’t account for this extent of flexibility. We even hear of employees taking sabbaticals to manage their condition as this is sometimes the policy that gives the most time off to employees.” 

Harrison said the government needs to do more to help disabled people do the work they want to.  

He added: “Supporting those with long-term health conditions who want to work more hours to do so could provide a significant boost to the labour market, but the current support from government and employers is failing them – including those on long-term sick. 

“We need refreshed, robust policies in place to protect disabled workers’ employment rights and ensure the right levels of support in place from day one of a person entering a workplace.” 

The Work Foundation’s study is based on data captured in the ONS Labour Force Survey, April – June 2022. 

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