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Revealed: the impact of Covid crisis on disabled workers

This news post is over 3 years old

Anxiety levels rocketing among disabled workers

The UK government needs to act now to avoid a jobs crisis for disabled people, leading charity Leonard Cheshire has warned.

Its newest study suggests that representation of disabled people in the workplace is in decline amid lingering discrimination in employment.

All of this has been made worse by the effects of the Covid pandemic on the employment landscape.

The charity found that 67% of disabled people in Scotland feel more anxiety that their job is at risk than they did before the crisis, and 47% of disabled people in Scotland feel at great risk of redundancy due to employers judging them on the basis of their disability, while 15% feel they are generally in fear of redundancy.

Meanwhile, since the onset of the pandemic, 29% of disabled people in Scotland have been working reduced hours and 25% have lost out on income.

The charity's study surveyed 1171 working age disabled people and 502 employers across the UK, revealing the scale of the impact on jobs from Covid-19. It uncovered a crisis of confidence among young disabled people who are pessimistic about their futures.

For many disabled 18-24 year olds, this impact was psychological. More than half (57%) across the UK said they felt that the pandemic had affected their ability to work, and 54% that it had hit their future earnings potential.

Employers seemed to be discouraged from hiring disabled people due to the pandemic. Two in five (42%) of employers across the UK said that a barrier to doing so is being able to support them properly, and a fifth (20%) admitted they were less likely to hire a disabled person overall.

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%). Only 21% had hired any disabled people since 2018.

Leonard Cheshire has urged the UK government to act on the problems uncovered by the report. In particular, the charity pointed to measures in its own ‘Plan For Jobs’, published earlier this month.

The Plan For Jobs 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.

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.”