People with disabilities face huge barriers to pensions saving, resulting in a private pension pot just 36 percent of the UK average, according to research by the Pensions Policy Institute.

Also, people with a disability who are approaching retirement age (age 60-64) have a £47,980 average pension wealth compared to the average UK pot size of £130,928.

This is a sizeable difference of almost £83,000.

There are currently, just over 4 million disabled workers in the UK, yet there is still a high level of unemployment among disabled people.

They are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people and even those who can work are often limited by the amount and type of work they can do and can be trapped in low-paying or part-time jobs.


The disabled employment gap 

The government aims to see one million more disabled people in work between 2017 and 2027 and is committed to reducing the gap between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people – known as the disability employment gap.

Disabled people are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people, and three times as likely to be economically inactive.

Although we’re seeing the government’s goal having a positive impact on employment rates, under the current automatic enrolment legislation many are still missing out, as many work part time and earn under the earnings threshold of £10,000.


Cost of living

According to the charity Scope, life costs you on average £583 more a month if you’re disabled and families of disabled children face, on average, extra costs of £581 a month. For almost a quarter (24%) of families with disabled children, extra costs amount to over £1,000 a month.

This means there is even less chance for them to save, which is why we’re lobbying to make sure everyone can benefit from auto enrolment.


Disabled people who are eligible for auto enrolment have marginally higher participation rates than non-disabled employees. 

A large 83 percent of eligible disabled workers participate in auto enrolment schemes, which is 2.9 million people compared to 80 percent of non-disabled eligible employees.

However, because they’re less likely to meet the qualifying criteria (approximately 15%, or 500,000 disabled people in work don’t qualify) as a group they still benefit less overall from automatic enrolment compared to non-disabled people.

However, people with disabilities are the only group for whom the average income from State Pension and benefits tops up private pension savings to a level equal to that of the baseline population.


Exclusion from automatic enrolment. 

Almost a third of people with disabilities work part-time (28%) compared to the non-disabled population of 20 percent. The issue with working part-time is that workers might not meet the minimum earnings threshold of £10,000.

An employee is only enrolled in a workplace pension scheme once they earn over £10,000 a year in a single job. Even those earning more than the £10,000 threshold in a job and enrolled still miss out on potentially significant contributions from each of their employments due to the Lower Earnings Limit.

The lower limit is set at £6,240 meaning that only earnings over that amount are pensionable. Instead of saving 8 percent into a pension, those earning £10,000 are only contributing 3.8 percent of that total figure, meaning they are missing out on crucial employer contributions.


What can employers do?

“I encourage all employers to embrace board and workplace inclusion plus, and importantly, the social model of disability, and remove the barriers that people with disabilities all too often accessing communications, tools, products, services and careers as in doing so, you remove barriers and improve access for all,” says Disability Awareness Champion, Johnny Timpson OBE.

“Additionally, I urge employers, and particularly financial services firms, to join the Disability Confident Scheme and raise employee awareness of both the Access To Work support plus welfare benefits and grants that may be entitled to,” adds Mr Timpson.

Joanne Segars OBE, Chair of Trustees at NOW: Pensions:

“People with disabilities are one of the underpensioned groups that we have been campaigning on behalf of for some time. We believe it is imperative that we continue to raise awareness of the discrimination that many people go through which has a huge impact on the ability of people to save for their later life. We want to make pension saving fairer for everybody in the UK and our policy proposal to remove the £10,000 earnings threshold would help get a further 500,000 disabled people saving for their retirement.”





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.