Survey exposes UK job market’s ‘lingering discrimination’ against disabled people

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THE UK Government must act now in order to mitigate a growing jobs crisis in the disabled community, a leading charity has warned.

Leonard Cheshire, a charity which helps people “to live, learn and work as independently as they choose”, issued the warning as a new survey suggested there is a “lingering discrimination in the employment of disabled people”.

The survey found that 42% of employers across the UK were discouraged from hiring disabled job applicants due to concerns around supporting them properly during the pandemic.

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One in five employers (20%) also admitted they would be less likely to hire someone if they were disabled.

Analysis earlier in the year from the Institute for Employment Studies found that 40% of disabled employees were either furloughed or had their hours reduced, compared with 30% of non-disabled employees.

The study released today from Leonard Cheshire found that over 8 in 10 disabled people in Scotland employed in March 2020 (82%) have been impacted by loss of income, furlough, unemployment, or other damaging effects as a result of the pandemic.

READ MORE: Holyrood pledges move away from ‘degrading’ UK disability benefit system

Meanwhile, the proportion of employers who say their organisation employs any disabled staff has fallen to 33% in 2020, a 16 percentage point drop from 2018 (49%).

Stuart Robertson, director of Leonard Cheshire in Scotland, said: “Our findings are stark. But we should see them not as gloomy forecasts for policymakers but as motivators for immediate, wide-ranging action. We must stress that prompt, decisive action can stop the trends we have identified from becoming more serious.

“Still, we cannot understate the urgency of the challenge. Our study suggests that inclusive practices at employers have been put at risk by fears relating to Covid-19 as the economic outlook darkens.

“We urge the government to take on the recommendations we make in the Plan For Jobs, and work with businesses to make our recovery from this downturn an inclusive one.”

The Plan For Jobs, published by the charity earlier this month, outlines ways of ensuring the economic recovery from Covid-19 is disability inclusive.

These consist of preserving the furlough scheme for shielders, introducing a Job Guarantee for young people, and overhauling Universal Credit to protect disabled people from hardship. It also proposes measures to make employers more inclusive, such as mandatory reporting on disability employment rates and pay.

The charity’s study surveyed 1171 working age disabled people and 502 employers across the UK.

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