The Disability Employment Gap Explained

Written by Rachel Blythe
Last updated Thursday September 15 2022

As of the most recent statistics, there are over 4 million disabled people employed in the U.K. However, the employment rate of disabled people is only 52.7%, as opposed to 81% of non-disabled people. Despite all of our advancements in accessibility and diversity, disabled people are still employed less than non-disabled people.

This disability employment gap is an issue that deserves attention and discussion. It is not simply the case that around half of disabled people cannot or are unwilling to work. Many unemployed disabled people want to work but feel that they are unable to get the opportunities they want. There are many reasons for this and we will discuss them a little later on in this blog. 

At Careers with Disabilities, we believe that all people deserve equal opportunities in employment. We want to help in the mission to close this employment gap and to connect disabled people to the jobs they want and deserve. To do so, in this blog, we are going to discuss the disability employment gap, why it exists, and what we can do about it. 

What is the Disability Employment Gap?

What is meant by the disability employment gap is simply the gap between the aforementioned statistics. If 81% of non-disabled people are actively employed and only 52.7% of disabled people are employed, the gap is 28.3%. 

This is a significant statistic. There remains a huge gap between the numbers of disabled and non-disabled people in employment and that is very telling about our current situation in the U.K. It tells a story of our employers, protocols, recruitment processes, and general attitudes. 

If these many disabled people are not being employed, despite the fact that they are willing to, there is obviously something going wrong. In fact, there are multiple things going wrong. And it is all of our responsibility to figure out what is happening and how we can change it. Particularly so if we are employers

Employers have a critical part to play in the employment of disabled people. How we advertise jobs, promote our companies, conduct recruitment, design our workplaces, and treat our staff, has a direct impact on how many disabled people get and keep jobs. 

Why Does the Gap Exist?

There are multiple factors contributing to the disability employment gap, and they include (but are by no means limited to)

  • Lack of education and awareness around disability: We all know far too little about disabilities and life as a disabled person. Lack of education and awareness leads to decisions that exclude and harm disabled people. Education and training can help to close this gap. 
  • Exclusive recruitment: Recruitment can be a gateway or a barrier to employment. For many disabled people, it is a barrier. Inaccessible forms and application processes, biased panels, and societal stereotypes hold many skilled and valuable disabled people back from the jobs they want. Increasing our inclusivity in recruitment processes can make the world of difference. 


  • Physical inaccessibility: Many places of work are simply still too inaccessible for many disabled people. We need to improve the U.K.’s physical accessibility levels on the whole. This includes public transport and ways of getting to work.


  • Prejudice against mental health conditions: The disabled employed rate is lower for people with mental health conditions. In the workplace, many people still misunderstand mental health and discriminate against it. This hinders many people. The more that we can understand mental health conditions and how they can be actively supported in a healthy workplace, the less of a gap we would see between people with and without these conditions in work. 

Overall, the state of affairs isn’t great here in the U.K. We should all be doing more to ensure that disabled people have equal access to job opportunities. Accessibility is everyone’s job and the more we work together, the better every aspect of life can be. 

Knowing what is going wrong and acknowledging it is the first step to building a better future for everyone. 

What Can We Do About the Disability Employment Gap?

Here at Careers with Disabilities, we would like to see the disability employment gap come to an end. We want people of all abilities to have equal opportunities at work. There are many ways that we are helping to do this. 

The first is helping people with a wide range of disabilities find the jobs of their dreams without barriers of inaccessibility. We have support, advice, guidance and opportunities for connecting available on our site. Most importantly, we have our live job board which helps disabled people find an equal, diverse, and inclusive job in their desired industry. Our directory of Disability-Friendly employers can help you easily find the best people to work for too. 

Secondly, we also provide employers with the support and resources they need to become as inclusive and accessible as possible. Our unique services for employers help them reach a diverse talent network without any inaccessibility or stereotypical barriers. Becoming a Disability-Confident employer has never been easier with our helping hand at Careers with Disabilities. And it has never been more worthwhile either. 

If you want to help close the disability gap and make the most out of accessibility and inclusivity, join us on Careers with Disabilities. We have something to help everyone. 

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Last Updated: Thursday September 15 2022

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