Skip to content Skip to footer

Employers and government must do more to close health and disability employment gap

3 August 2016

Disabled people or those with a health condition are more than twice as likely to fall out of work in any given year compared with people who are not not disabled or do not have health problems, reveals new analysis from Citizens Advice.

Research published today by the national charity finds they are also three times less likely to move into employment.

Of the 3.5 million people who are disabled or have a health condition who are out of work, 1.4 million want a job.

Citizens Advice is calling for improved support for disabled people and those with long term health conditions to stay in work or get a job. For the government to help people achieve job security it must ensure better support for those who are disabled or have a long term health condition to stay in work or get a job.

In particular, the welfare system and employers need to better recognise the needs of people with fluctuating conditions or conditions that may be hidden, such as arthritis or depression.

As the population ages and more people stay in work longer Citizens Advice says it is more important than ever that employers and government do more to address the challenges they face. One in 4 people aged 50-64 are disabled or have a health condition and 500,000 people in this group don’t have a job but want to work.

The new research from Citizens Advice also explores the shape and size of the health and disability employment gap. 80% of those who are not disabled and without a health condition are employed, compared with just 49% of people who are disabled or have a health condition.  

But ‘Working with a health condition or disability’ reveals that even within the health and disability employment gap some people face more challenges than others:

  • Over half of people with a physical health condition or disability are in work (53%) compared with a third of people (36%) with mental health problems.

  • Fewer than 1 in 5 who have a health condition or are disabled and don’t have any qualifications in work, compared with over two thirds (68%) who have advanced qualifications such as a degree.

  • Employment rates for people who have a health condition or are disabled varies significantly by region, from 57% in the South West to 42% in Wales and the North East.

A 55 year old woman turned to her local Citizens Advice for help when her employer didn’t support her after she was diagnosed with a long term health condition:

“I had to leave my call centre job of 8 years after I developed neurological problems which affect my vision. I often get migraines, and my thought processes have slowed a little.

“There were easy ways my employer could have helped me stay in work, like changing my duties to just being on the phone. It would have worked much better and solved the problem of me lagging behind.”

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Closing the health and disability employment gap will take work from both employers and government.

“Disabled people and those with a health condition face a range of obstacles which need to be recognised and addressed to help them get and keep a job. Simple things like being flexible about medical appointments or adaptable working hours can make a huge difference. It is also vital that people can get timely support from the welfare system when they need it, such as through Personal Independence Payments.

“As many now work for longer in life, the number of people who need to balance the demands of work and managing a health condition or disability will continue to grow.  It is in the interests of employers and government to work together to offer a range of support so anyone who is disabled or has a health condition and wants to work can achieve job security.”

Notes to editors

  1. Analysis is based on people aged 16-64 in England & Wales.

  2. Health condition refers to work-limiting health conditions throughout.

  3. Figures for moves into and out of work are based on analysis of ONS Labour Force Survey for Q2 2013, Q2 2014 and Q2 2015. 8.6% of disabled people who are in work, are out of work one year later. The comparable figure is 4.1% for those who are not disabled and do not have a health condition. Of those who are disabled or have a health condition who are out of work, 9% will be in work 12 months later. The comparable figure is 26% for those who are not disabled and do not have a health condition.

  4. Other figures are based on ONS Labour Force Survey Q1-Q4 2015.
  5. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  6. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  7. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  8. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  9. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  10. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.