What can we do?

Our recommendations for improving employment of disabled people

Structural inequalities in the labour market

Structural inequalities in the labour market cause the gap between disabled people and non-disabled people’s employment rates. Removing these inequalities will not be simple, and will need the combined effort of many different actors. It may take some time for these changes to be felt. But making them will create a society in which many more disabled people are able to enter, stay in and progress in work.
There are four areas which need to be addressed:

Employer Attitudes

Employer attitudes affect every aspect of work and employment for disabled people. It is vital that employers appreciate the impact that their attitudes and actions have on enabling disabled people to enter and stay in work.

Negative attitudes are fuelled by lack of information, understanding and confidence in dealing with disability. There are a few relatively straightforward steps which employers can take to make a significant difference:

  • Find out about good practice around disability in employment from organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Professional Development, or from government guidance. 
  • Stay abreast of government schemes which are there to help, such as Access to Work. 
  • Embed flexible working practices – flexible working is one of the most commonly requested forms of reasonable adjustment made by disabled people, and can be relatively easy and inexpensive to put in place. 
  • Talk openly and honestly with disabled employees about what adjustments and support they need to perform at their best. Disabled people are the experts in their own condition.

Improving job retention

Reducing the number of people unnecessarily leaving the labour market is an important part of increasing the employment rate amongst disabled people. Employer attitudes are significant in enabling disabled employees to stay and progress in work. But, there are also important steps government can take to begin to address poor retention rates amongst disabled people. This will improve the disability employment rate.
  • Expand Access to Work, to ensure that more disabled people receive the support they need to stay in work. 
  • Remove the proposed cap on awards through Access to Work of more than £40,800. 
  • Introduce legislation which mandates the option of part-time leave for disabled people adjusting to changes in or fluctuations to their condition. Ensuring that individuals avoid long term, full time sickness absence and maintain their connection to the workplace is crucial in keeping them in employment.14 
  • Introduce specialist in-work support targeted at supporting disabled people who are at risk of leaving the workforce prematurely.

Personalised employment support

Disabled people face systematic and structural barriers to entering work. Many disabled people need specialist employment support to overcome these barriers.
Current specialised employment support programmes are small. National attempts to create larger tailored employment programmes have not yet led to personalised, specialist, support being put in place.
  • Replace the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) with a Distance from Work Assessment. This should be focused on identifying an individual’s barriers to work and referring to appropriate support. 
  • Increase the number of Disability Employment Advisers. All disabled job seekers should have access to specialist advice and support. 
  • Move all disabled job seekers out of the Work Programme and into specialist support. 
  • Pilot personal budgets for employment support.

Disability, Localism and Growth

Many local areas are starting to think about how they can do more to use new powers and funding streams to improve employment outcomes for disabled people. This is usually in smaller, specialist schemes.
But few are thinking about the disabled labour force from the start. There is a tendency to view disabled people as an ‘add on’ tacked on at the end of wider plans. This is a missed opportunity. It ignores the important role disabled people can and must play in the economic recovery.
  • Put increasing the rate of employment amongst disabled people at the heart of future employment and growth strategies 
  • Use existing initiatives within devolution and localism plans to improve employment rates amongst disabled people.


Enabling work report

Being in work is about more than just a wage. It is about being independent, interacting with your peers, and being able to achieve your goals and aspirations.