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.

This same inquiry set forth an ambition to halve the disability employment gap by 2020, which would require an extra 1.2m to 1.5m disabled people to enter work.

To put this challenge into perspective, the most recent labour force statistics from the ONS show just 744,000 vacancies in the whole of the UK.

That is a simplistic overview of the challenges faced by these groups in isolation, but there are further complications when both factors are combined.

In the UK, there are more women with disabilities in work than men in absolute terms, around 2m compared to 1.5m.

However, there are more women of working age with disabilities than men, so these figures translate to employment rates of 48.6 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.

This means that despite the higher number of disabled women, disabled men are more likely to find employment.

Not only this, but over the past year, the employment rate for disabled men has increased seven times faster than for disabled women, at 0.7 per cent versus 0.1 per cent.

At the sharp end

The lack of employment opportunities facing disabled women, despite protections enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, exacerbates a nationwide problem of a lack of protection insurance in place.

The protection gap across the UK was estimated at £2.6tn by the Association of British Insurers in 2012.

A lot of research has been done to show that women are less likely than men to have protection insurance, and people with disabilities can struggle to purchase income protection or life insurance products.

The other major route to gaining these kinds of insurance, as employee benefits, is also limited for both of these groups and disabled women are at the sharp end of this deficit.

What can be done to address this?

The answer is simple, if not necessarily easy, and the same as many other issues faced by the UK workforce. Awareness, education and proactivity are vital.

Employers need to be aware of the opportunity they are missing out on to tap a new resource pool as the war for talent heightens in intensity.

They need to educate themselves about what help is available to make employing disabled women straightforward and productive.

Proactivity is the real key though, and needs to be taken to heart by disabled women just as much as the companies who could benefit from their skills.

The onus cannot be entirely on businesses – it is impossible to hire people who are not applying for jobs.

That does not mean employers can just make themselves accessible and write the appropriate policies to make equal hiring a theoretical possibility.

They must take steps to shift cultural perceptions and make it known that they welcome applications from all.


Questions appear on the last page of this article.