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Disability employment reporting should be mandatory says ReWAGE and Disability@Work

ReWAGE and Disability@Work have jointly responded to the government’s consultation on disability workforce reporting, which was launched in December 2021 to help inform and shape the government’s future approach.

In its response to the consultation, a ReWAGE sub-group said that disabled people face significant disadvantage in the labour market and a disability employment gap of almost 30 percentage points. Given that 1 in 5 of the working-age population are disabled (increasing to nearly 1 in 3 of older workers 60+ years old), this disadvantage affects a large number of people.

The response argues that while most government policy has focused on disabled people’s job-seeking activity and incentives to work, even the most positive measures will only prove effective if disabled people have jobs to go to. The ending of Incapacity Benefit and the introduction of Employment Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments, and the Work and Health Programme have been criticised for their ineffective implementation and for delivering poor value for money.

The government needs to implement measures that encourage employers to ensure policies and practices are in place to help disabled people to get into and remain in work – such as the scaling up of supported employment services, supported internships and disabled people’s access to apprenticeships.

Government can encourage greater employer engagement with the disability employment agenda by:

  • introducing mandatory disability employment and pay gap reporting;
  • prioritising disability employment metrics within the Disability Confident assessment criteria and in social value criteria within government contract award decisions; and
  • supporting trade union efforts to assist disabled employees.

The introduction of mandatory disability employment reporting has the potential to drive change and would require employers to report the number of disabled people they employ as a percentage of their workforce. However, to be effective, mandatory reporting would need to follow three key principles:

1. A standardised question for employers to use when asking their employees about their disability status – this would ensure that data collected is comparable across employers and that would enable the development of develop national, regional or sectoral averages for benchmarking purposes.

2. A question that mirrors the Labour Force Survey (LFS) measure - this is the government’s main source of national disability statistics and is used to monitor its national disability employment commitments.

3. A standardised data collection method – employers should be required to collect data on an annual basis (which is important given the non-static nature of disability) using a standard government form that cannot be altered or changed.

If followed, these 3 principles would enable the reporting system to produce standardised, comparable data that will allow employers to benchmark their progress against other employers and against meaningful national, regional and sectoral averages. Given that the data will be comparable across employers it could also be used to establish whether employers have met the criteria for Disability Confident accreditation – a revised version of which is also put forward in the paper – and in the assessment of social value within government contract procurement decisions.

The full report, which was co-authored for ReWAGE and Disability@Work by Professor Kim Hoque of Warwick Business School and Professor Nick Bacon of City University, London, has been published on the ReWAGE website.