If you have been following my articles for a while now, you will have seen me talk about the pay gaps. I’ve discussed the astounding revelations concerning the BBC pay gap earlier this summer, how the pensions pay gap forces women into poverty and the shocking ethnic pay gap in the UK.
But there’s one pay gap that isn’t talked about, and which I believe should get a lot more attention. And that it is: the pay gap for women with disabilities.
Whilst it’s not only women (disabled men earn ~11 percent less than their able bodied counterparts), the data is shockingly skewed for females with disabilities, who earn up to 22% less than able bodied women in similar job roles. When you consider that the UK pay gap between men and women in the UK already stands at 18%, the gap for disabled women is effectively doubled.
For those with mental disabilities which are both work-limiting and activity-limiting, the pay gap is 18%. Those who are physically limited limited are paid 14% less. The numbers are frankly unbelievable.
The Real Story
Writing on the issues she faces as an actress, Athena Stevens discussed how difficult it has been for her to not only get paid for jobs, but the discrimination she has faced by her employers. In the article for iNews, Athena wrote about how disabled women are taught to simply be grateful for their opportunities, rather than to speak up:
“Society demands that disabled women always act thankful in order to gain access to what most people consider to be common decency. Disabled women who are thankful for their job don’t ask for pay raises. They don’t overstep their boundaries and need ‘too much’ help.
“Such a woman isn’t going to demand that you install a lift, challenge your preconceived ideas, or hire a solicitor when you don’t uphold your contract.
“A disabled woman ought to be too busy being thankful to demand her right to equal access. And if she’s foolish enough to assert such a right, we can always remind her she’s lucky to have anything at all in the first place.”
What Can Be Done?
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has created a strategy setting out what needs to change and who needs to take action to reduce gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.
Referring specifically to the disability pay gap, the EHRC has said that there are three major steps that we can take in order to close the pay gap.
Take steps to improve attainment outcomes for pupils with a disability and/or SEND and holding relevant authorities to account when schools fail to make reasonable adjustments
Develop regionally-based labour market strategies with specific actions to tackle significant gender, ethnicity and disability employment and pay
Make the right to request flexible working a day-one right, and offering all jobs including the most senior on a flexible and part-time basis.
As we move towards more flexible working hours, we are taking a step in the right direction. Those who have difficulties accessing workspaces can work from home, and can work hours around their own needs.
How effective education is, or how opportunities are developing remains to be seen. But by discussing the matter, and demanding that it’s talked about we can highlight the need for, and hopefully inspire change.