Income Protection  

Understanding gender, disability and the protection gap

  • Describe the challenges disabled women face in the workplace.
  • List what can be done to address this problem in the group insurance market.
  • Identify what other help is available to support disabled women back into work.
Understanding gender, disability and the protection gap

Long-running debates about equality in the world of work have been gathering momentum in recent years, and we are finally starting to see action being taken in a variety of ways.

In April 2018, we saw the inaugural deadline for businesses with 250 or more employees to publish their gender pay gap.

In October 2016, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health co-published a green paper, 'Work, health and disability: improving lives', and a year later, in 2017, we saw 'Thriving at work: the Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers'.

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This focus is to be encouraged. But as awareness and understanding of inequality matures, it is important to begin examining increasingly granular groups to ensure nobody slips through the cracks and gets left behind.

We are still a long way from equality and diversity in employment being 'done'.

One such group at risk of oversight is disabled women, who have “been invisible, both to the advocates of women’s rights and of disability rights", according to a background paper put to UN Women.

Disabled women are a group facing unique challenges both collectively and individually, and are likely to face “double discrimination” throughout their lives, be it culturally or personally.

This results in a valuable pool of willing workers being overlooked at best and ignored at worst, which has knock-on effects on productivity, output and the protection gap.

To illustrate this point, we need to first understand the picture in each discrete group.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK has a current gender employment gap of 9 per cent for men and women aged 16 to 64.

This gap is issue enough, given the male and female populations of the UK are roughly equal, but it also masks some underlying facts.

There are around 14.8m men working full-time, compared to 8.8m women, while some 6.3m women work part-time compared to just 2.2m men.

Women are also more likely to be economically inactive – not in work and not actively seeking or unavailable to begin employment – with 5.4m in this category compared to 3.4m men, the ONS reveals.

Not only are women less likely to be in work, but when in work, they are likely to receive fewer hours and less pay than men.

Disability employment gap

Moving to those with disabilities, the most recent disability employment gap in the UK, from May 2019, was 29.9 per cent. This is the difference in the employment rate between people who have at least one disability and those who do not.

According to the charity Scope, the disability employment gap has been above 30 per cent for more than a decade.

This shows how employers have struggled to engage effectively.

A parliamentary inquiry in 2016 also showed economic inactivity among disabled people was around three times higher than for those without disabilities, at 47 per cent compared to 16 per cent.