Figures released on 2 December show that the disability pay gap narrowed slightly in 2018, but was still significant at 12.2% – down only 0.5% on where it stood the previous year. 
Published on the eve of International Disability Day, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data showed that:
- median pay for non-disabled employees was £12.11 an hour last year, while for their disabled colleagues it was £10.63;
- the disability pay gap was wider for men than for women;
- on a regional basis, London had the widest disability pay gap at 15.3%, and
- disabled staff with mental impairments had a much larger pay gap (18.6%) than those with physical impairments (9.7%).
Interestingly, the data also showed that among last year’s UK population numbers, almost one in five citizens aged between 16 and 64 (18.9%) were registered disabled.
The ONS figures emerged just a few days after Disability Rights UK CEO Kamran Mallick urged employers not to view disabled staff as an expensive burden. “Disabled people tend to stay loyal to their employer longer than everybody else and take less sick leave,” he stressed. “But the main positive for me about employing disabled people is the diversity of experience that they bring to a business.” 
CIPD diversity and inclusion adviser Dr Jill Miller said that, while she was encouraged by the slight reduction of the pay gap, employers still had much work to do. She noted: “Too many disabled people continue to face prejudice and struggle to get into employment or to remain in work, and are less likely to progress to senior management roles or to work in professional occupations. Businesses that aren’t inclusive – and don’t manage health and disability effectively – risk missing out on hardworking and talented individuals, and damaging their reputation among staff and customers.” She added: “Employers can help to close the disability employment and progression gap by ensuring that line managers are aware of their responsibilities around making reasonable adjustments.” 
How should line managers express those responsibilities?
The Institute of Leadership & Management’s head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “As I have discussed in our previous blogs on similar issues in the fields of gender and ethnicity, pay gaps shine an unforgiving light on the underrepresentation of key social groups, and have an enormous impact upon the claims that organisations make for themselves about their levels of inclusivity. How can organisations with problems on that front fully understand the needs of their customers, if their staff base isn’t representative of the audiences they’re seeking to serve? So, as Mallick points out, it makes such good business sense for leaders to have these different perspectives at their fingertips.”
She notes: “As ever for line managers, whose remits are often wide and complex, the challenge is that it’s something else they have to think about and accommodate into their work, while having a sense of the right thing to do on a case-by-case basis. And there are few areas more challenging than making reasonable adjustments, which entail different things for different people. It’s impossible to formulate blanket policies on how this should be done: whatever a disabled employee needs to support them in the workplace so they can do their best work will depend heavily upon the nature of their disability, how they manage it – and how they interface their home life with their work life.”
As such, Cooper explains: “This is something that can’t be done quickly, and requires thoughtful consideration. But just as the best line managers understand their staff, and make routine adjustments in the ways they manage, motivate and inspire them, the same, underlying relationship principle applies: ask, what do you need from me and the organisation to do the best job you can?”
She adds: “On a broader level, as the campaign for inclusivity marches on, it’s vital for organisations to keep measuring their treatment of key social groups in order to build awareness. Data will continue to highlight gaps for all to see. Once those gaps become public knowledge, they will bring the issues around them to the forefront – and hopefully force us to challenge the ways we go about recruiting and promoting.”
For further insights on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s resources on appreciating diversity