Latest population figures suggest that a fifth of working-age Brits are currently classed as having a disability.

Also, data from 2021 showed that the number of disabled people in employment was more than 50 percent higher than almost ten years earlier.

Alongside this, there are more Brits reporting long-term health conditions or disabilities than ever before – a figure that is being driven by an increase in mental health conditions across the nation’s workplaces.

But despite the growing number of the population who live with mental health conditions, the disability employment rate is much lower for these individuals.

Interestingly, disabled people are more likely than non-disabled people to be self-employed. In 2019/2020, there were 0.7 percentage points between disabled (14.8%) and non-disabled workers (14.1%).


The disabled workforce

The number of disabled people in employment in the UK increased from 2.9million in 2013, to more than 4.4m in 2021 according to latest government findings. While the increasing number of disabled people joining the UK workforce can be attributed to factors like the overall working-age population and prevalence of disabilities, the employment rate gap between disabled and non-disabled Brits is glaring.

Despite the massive growth in employment for Brits with disabilities, only 53.5 percent of disabled people aged between 16 and 64 years are currently in employment, versus the 81.6 percent of non-disabled people of the same age group. Furthermore, a gap was seen in the employment rates between disabled and non-disabled British men (31.1%) than for women (24.8%).

The employment rate is lower still for people with severe or specific learning disabilities, those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and those with mental illness.


How can businesses support disabled employees?

While there is currently government support available for eligible disabled employees to provide support in the workplace, there are many ways individual businesses can help their disabled workforce. From simply revising policies to ensure they are inclusive of all staff, to providing education around certain disabilities that impact teams within the business, employers must be aware of and provide assistance for the barriers that disabled people face at work.

Ricky Towler, Founder of Middletons says: “Flexible working is a buzz term that is not going anywhere, as Brits are searching for things like “work from home” on average 30,000 times per month in the UK. If working from home isn’t an option, then simply addressing working hours, personal breaks and shift patterns can also support employees with disabilities, as can adjusting responsibilities of the employee.”

“Making a workplace accessible for disabled employees is a huge show of support from a business, especially if additional equipment or devices can be available for these employees. Installing ramps for mobility scooters or wheelchairs, modifying furniture to allow for wider access, or providing a sensory-free environment for overstimulated workers are all ways businesses can support their staff who have additional needs.”






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.