Disabled workers earning a fifth less than non-disabled peers – TUC analysis reveals

disabled workers earn less
  • New analysis, published on Disability Pay Gap Day, shows that pay gap has widened by £800 over the last year to £3,800 
  • Union body warns that gulf in earnings is likely to grow as Covid-19 economic crisis hits 
  • TUC calls for financial help through job support scheme for clinically extremely vulnerable people who cannot work from home  

New analysis published by the TUC today (Saturday) shows that disabled workers now earn a fifth (20%) less than non-disabled workers. 

The analysis found that the pay gap for disabled workers has widened to £3,800 per year – an increase of £800 over the last year for someone working a 35 hour week. 

This pay gap means that disabled people effectively work for free for the last 60 days (around 8 and a half weeks) of the year and stop getting paid on Sunday 1 November. 

The disability pay gap of £3800 is the equivalent of: 

  • 14 months of the average household expenditure on food and non-alcoholic drinks (£61.90 per week) or 
  • Almost 11 months of the average expenditure on fuel and power (£79.40 per week) or 
  • Almost 11 months of what the average household spends on transport (£80.20 per week). 

The new analysis reveals that disabled women face the biggest pay gap. They are paid on average 36% (£3.68 an hour, or around £6,700 a year) less than non-disabled men. 

Disability employment gap 

Not only are disabled people paid less, they are also less likely to be in employment than their non-disabled peers. 

Many disabled people who want to work face a range of barriers to accessing employment, from a lack of transport to get to work or inadequate equipment or adjustments made once they are there. 

Only around half (53.7%) of disabled people are in work, compared to more than four-fifths (82%) of non-disabled people – a gap of 28 percentage points.

Impact of Covid-19 

The TUC warns the disability pay and employment gaps will almost certainly increase again as the economic impact of Covid-19 hits. 

Studies show that in previous recessions disabled workers are the first to lose their jobs, and the last to be re-employed. 

In addition, disabled workers are more likely to experience negative changes to their terms and conditions. 

The TUC is particularly concerned about the employment situation of people who are considered “clinically extremely vulnerable” to coronavirus.  

This includes many disabled people. Those who cannot work from home are advised not to attend work in areas where formal shielding advice has been reinstated, and many more in the clinically extremely vulnerable group may be very concerned about attending workplaces as the second wave of coronavirus hits.  

The union body is calling on the government to make it clear that clinically extremely vulnerable people who are advised not to attend workplaces should be eligible for the Job Support Scheme (Closed) throughout the country, not just in Tier 3 areas, with no minimum working hours requirement, at 80% of their wages. 

What is driving the pay and employment gap? 

The main factors driving the pay and employment gap for disabled people are: 

  • Part-time working: A higher proportion of disabled people than non-disabled people work part-time. Part-time jobs, especially in the private sector, are paid less per hour than fulltime jobs.  
  • Low-paid work: Disabled people are over-represented in lower paid jobs like caring, leisure and other services and sales and customer services, and under-represented in senior and managerial roles.
  • Education: Some disabled people leave education earlier than non-disabled people. However, even where disabled and non-disabled people have the same qualifications there is still a big pay gap. 

The pay gap is also linked to unlawful discrimination, structural barriers and negative attitudes, says the TUC. 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Disabled women and men face huge and growing discrimination. They are far less likely to have a paid job than their non-disabled peers – and when they do, they earn substantially less.  

“And there’s now a very real danger that coronavirus will make the situation even worse. Disabled workers and those shielding are an easy target for the redundancy list.  

“People who need to shield must not be thrown out of work. And the government must make sure that people who are shielding and can’t work from home can get help from the job support scheme at 80% of their wages.   

“Otherwise we risk swathes of disabled people losing their jobs. That will result in significant hardship and will turn back the clock on the decades of slow but steady progress disabled people have made in the labour market.”  


Notes to editors:
– What is Disability Pay Day? The TUC introducedDisability Pay Gap Day for the first time last year. It is the day of the year when the average disabled person stops being paid, compared to the average non-disabled person. The overall disability pay gap of £2.10 is calculated by a TUC analysis of Labour Force Survey statistics from 2019 Q3 and 4, and 2020 Q1 and Q2. 

Equality Act disabled Not Equality Act disabled 
Average hourly pay (£) £10.73 £12.83 
Gap (£) £2.10 

– Pay gap by gender 

 Median average hourly pay (£) Median average hourly pay gap (£) Pay gap (%) 
Non-disabled men £13.88   
Disabled men £11.80 £2.08 17.6% 
Non-disabled women £11.73 £2.15 18.3% 
Disabled women £10.20 £3.68 36.0% 

Regional Disability Pay Gaps (source the Labour Force Survey, 2019-2020).
Regional variations in the disability pay gap are likely to be caused by differences in the types of jobs and industries that are most common in that part of the UK, and in overall employment rates across the region. 

Region Pay gap % 
East of England 20.9 
Wales 17.8 
UK overall 19.6 
Yorks & Humberside 12.9 
West Midlands 17 
South East 19.3 
London 17.6 
East Midlands 16.8 
Scotland 24.8 
Northern Ireland 12.8 
North East 13.5 
North West 16.5 
South West 8.8 

Disability pay gap reporting 

To address the disability pay gap, the TUC wants the government to bring in mandatory disability pay gap reporting for all employers with more than 50 employees. 

The legislation should be accompanied by a duty on employers to produce targeted action plans identifying the steps they will take to address any gaps identified, including ensuring disabled workers with invisible impairments feel confident in completing workplace equality monitoring. 

Average Household Expenditure  

Weekly average household expenditure on food and non-alcoholic drinks, fuel and power and transport are taken from ONS report ‘Family spending in the UK: financial year ending 2019.’ Note that this is a conservative estimate as expenditure in these areas may be higher for disabled people. 


– About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 49 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 


TUC press office
020 7467 1248

Disabled workers earning a fifth less than non-disabled peers – TUC analysis reveals

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