New research shows the damaging effects COVID-19 has had on employees with disabilities with over seven in 10 being impacted by loss of income, furlough and unemployment since March 2020.

According to new research by Leonard Cheshire, a UK disability charity, over seven in 10 (71 per cent) employees with disabilities have lost income, become unemployment or been furloughed by their employer since March of this year.

The charity said its research has divulged a “crisis of confidence” amongst this group due to this and has urged the Government to act in order to avoid a job crisis for employees with disabilities.

Many employees with disabilities have also been struggling with their mental health due to the pandemic. Almost six in 10 (57 per cent) felt that, as a result of COVID-19, their ability to work had been impacted. Similarly, over half (54 per cent) believed that their future earnings potential had been affected.

Furthermore, research from Institute of Employment Studies found that COVID-19 did disproportionately impact employees who were disabled.  The statistics reveal that 40 per cent of employees with disabilities were furloughed or had reduced hours whilst this was the case for only 30 per cent of non-disabled employees.

Additionally, over two in five employers (42 per cent) stated that they were discouraged from hiring a person with disabilities due to feeling they were unable to properly support them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, the number of employees with disabilities within companies dropped to 33 per cent in 2020 from 49 per cent in 2018, a 16 per cent decrease overall.

However, this attitude towards employees with disabilities pre-dates the pandemic. A fifth of employers (20 per cent) admitted that they were less likely to hire a person with disabilities overall. Only a fifth of companies surveyed (21 per cent) had hired an employee with disabilities since 2018.

Gemma Hope, Head of Policy at Leonard Cheshire, 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.


*This data was collected after Leonard Cheshire surveyed 1171 working age people with disabilities and 502 employers. 







Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.