Press release

Minister urges employers to help break the disability glass ceiling

Over seven million disabled people in the UK are being prevented from getting jobs or reaching their full potential.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Over seven million disabled people in the UK are being prevented from getting jobs or reaching their full potential by employers and recruitment providers who are imposing a ‘glass ceiling’ upon them according to a DWP Disability Steering Group.

The steering group, whose members are from high profile government departments and multi-billion pound companies including E.ON Energy and BT PLC have called for other employers to rethink their attitude towards disabled people.

The group are also encouraging employers to sign up to Clearkit - an online resource, developed by employers, which helps identify and remove barriers in the recruitment of disabled people ( The aim is to sign up 1,000 organisations to the resource by October so that 500 more businesses make their recruitment practices fairer for disabled people.

Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller said:

Almost 50% of disabled people are out of work and those that are often work far below their potential. That is why I am urging employers to look hard at their recruitment and work practices to make sure they don’t miss out on the extensive talents of disabled people.

James Partridge, Chair of the DWP Disability Employer Engagement Steering Group said:

We, as employers, should not judge a person’s suitability for a role based on their disability. We should instead look at each individual’s ability and focus on what they can bring to our organisations if we provide the support, which in most cases is just about being flexible.

Sue LaVerne, E.ON Energy Solutions, HR Director says:

At E.ON each of our employees - whether they are disabled or not - brings enthusiasm and dedication to the role they do, so we see no reason why our disabled employees should not have the same opportunities and career progression as their non-disabled colleagues.

All of the employers who make up the steering group have pledged their commitment to providing disabled people with equal employment opportunities through initiatives like Clearkit.

Companies that sign up to Clearkit can also take part in an online assessment to make sure they do not exclude disabled people from the workplace. If successful, the company can display the ‘proud to be ClearAssured’ status which sends a message of commitment to disabled people applying for jobs that they will be given the same opportunities as non-disabled colleagues.

Miriam Ibberson, a disabled employee at E.ON said:

I’m often left with the impression that potential employers think that because I am disabled I am either not able to do the job I’ve applied for or it will cost them too much money to employ me when in fact quite the opposite is true.

With a fair interview, a little flexibility and the help of schemes such as Access to Work and Work Choice I am more than able to do the same job as anyone who is non-disabled.

Case study - E.ON

When Miriam Ibberson, who is registered blind, applied to E.ON, the company wanted to make sure she had the same chance as other non-disabled people in the recruitment process. This was easy to do and involved talking to Miriam ahead of her interview to confirm what support she would need on the day.

Kerry Spicer, E.ON Resource Consultant said:

Once we talked to Miriam we found out that she just needed us to be a bit more flexible with our assessment process.  We arranged for her to have Braille copies of the assessments where possible - something that was simple to arrange at little cost through Loughborough University - and also had a colleague on hand to read instructions for Miriam should she need help.

Miriam impressed the interview panel and was offered a job at E.ON. Before starting work, E.ON worked closely with Miriam and the RNIB as well as the local Access to Work adviser who was able to advise E.ON about what suitable adjustments they would need to make and what the Government’s Access to Work fund could pay for.

In the end, Access to Work paid for all the adjustments that were made, this included specialist IT software and unique headphones so Miriam could hear E.ON’s customers and the computer at the same time.

In fact the only adjustment that E.ON had to pay for was an exercise cage for Miriam’s guide dog - a small price to pay for a new team member.

Tips for employing disabled people

  • Do not discriminate against disabled people on things like application forms, interview arrangements, job offers, terms of employment (including pay) - not only is it not fair, it is against the law.
  • Don’t define a disabled person by their impairment and assume what they can’t do. Talk to them instead about what they can do.
  • Address disabled employees in the same way as you would address all other employees.
  • Disabled employees should have the same opportunities for training and career progression as all non-disabled employees
  • Be as flexible as possible - you are required to make reasonable adjustment by law which could include providing flexible working hours or support equipment.
  • Find out more about Access to Work - this could cover the costs of the specialist equipment that is needed to help an employee to do their job or get into work.

Key Facts and Stats

  • Disabled people’s employment has gradually increased, from 40.9% at the end of 1998 to 46.8% at the end of 2010 but much more needs to be done.
  • Disabled people make up 18% of the working-age population - that is over seven million people.
  • Around 15% of people with learning disabilities are in paid work (Labour Force Survey)
  • When compared to non-disabled men, disabled men have a pay gap of 11% and disabled women have a pay gap of 22%.
  • 56% of disabled people compared with 26% of non-disabled people report restrictions on the amount or type of work they can do
  • Once in work disabled people are less likely to progress to senior roles.  Non- disabled people are three times more likely to earn over £80,000.
  • Access to Work helps disabled people find and stay in jobs and Government will spend around £100m on it this year.
  • Closing the employment gap between disabled people and non-disabled people would boost the economy by £13bn (Evans S, 2007, Disability, Skills and Work: Raising our ambitions, SMF., skills and work.pdf)
Published 28 July 2011