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3 in 4 disabled workers earn less than £15 an hour

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By Trades Union Congress (TUC)

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Nearly three-quarters (72%) of disabled workers earn less than £15 an hour, according to new analysis of official statistics published by the TUC today (Wednesday).

The analysis – published today during disability history month – reveals that 3.09 million disabled workers around the UK are paid under the median wage of around £15 an hour.

Around half (54%) of non-disabled workers are paid less than this amount.

The TUC argues that disabled workers are over-represented in low-paid work – and says that the new increase in the minimum wage announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn statement doesn’t go anywhere near far enough in lifting workers out of poverty.

Regional and industrial analysis

The new analysis shows that in some parts of the country, even more disabled workers earn less than £15 an hour.

More than four in five disabled workers in the West Midlands (85%) and the North East (82%) earn less than £15 an hour, compared to around three in five (58% and 64%) of non-disabled workers in those regions.

And in some industries, most disabled people are paid less than £15 an hour. Nine in 10 disabled workers in wholesale, retail, repair of vehicles (94%) and arts, entertainment and recreation (89%) are paid less than £15.

Zero-hours contracts

The analysis found that disabled workers are more likely than non-disabled workers to be employed on a zero-hours contract (4.4% compared to 2.9%) with no guarantee of shifts from one week to the next.

The TUC says zero-hours contracts hand the employer total control over their workers’ hours and earning power.

This means workers never know how much they will earn each week, and their income is subject to the whims of managers.

The union body argues that this makes it hard for workers to plan their lives, look after their children and get to medical appointments.

And it makes it harder for workers to challenge unacceptable behaviour by bosses because of concerns about whether they will be penalised by not being allocated hours in future.


Not only are disabled workers paid less than non-disabled workers, they are also more likely to be excluded from the job market.

Disabled workers are now twice as likely as non-disabled workers to be unemployed (6.8% compared to 3.4%).  

In November, the TUC published analysis showing that the pay gap between non-disabled and disabled workers has widened and is now 17.2%, or £3,700 a year.

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TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“We all deserve a decent job with decent pay. Being disabled should not mean you’re employed on a lower wage or on worse terms and conditions. 

“As the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, many disabled workers are struggling to get by.

“We already know disabled people face higher living expenses than non-disabled people. And now they’re being pushed to the brink with eye-watering bills and are having to choose whether to put food on the table or pay their bills.

“Ministers announced the absolute bare minimum on the national minimum wage and universal credit in the Autumn statement. With living costs soaring, we need to ensure that everyone has enough to get by.

“Let’s put an end to low-pay Britain and get to a £15 per hour minimum wage as soon as possible.

“And it’s also past time to introduce mandatory disability pay gap reporting to shine a light on inequality at work. Without this, millions of disabled workers will be consigned to years of lower pay and in-work poverty.”

Government action needed

To address low pay, the TUC is calling for the minimum wage to be raised to £15 an hour as soon as possible.

In August, the union body set out a roadmap to a £15 an hour minimum wage and a high wage economy.

And to further support disabled workers, the TUC wants the government to bring in mandatory disability pay gap reporting for all employers with more than 50 employees.

The union body says the legislation should be accompanied by a duty on employers to produce action plans identifying the steps they will take to address any gaps identified. 

Disabled workers earning less than £15 an hour (figures from LFS Q3 2021-Q2 2022)  

  Disabled  Non-disabled
Total employees 4,298,328 23,810,496
Earning less than £15ph 3,089,678 12,880,030
% 72 54

Disabled workers earning less than £15 an hour (figures from LFS Q3 2021-Q2 2022) by REGION

Disability: equality act (GSS harmonised) Equality Act Disabled Not Equality Act Disabled
North East 83 64
North West 80 60
Yorkshire and Humberside 78 63
East Midlands 77 61
West Midlands 85 58
East of England 69 52
London 45 39
South East 65 48
South West 76 57
Wales 79 57
Scotland 73 54
Northern Ireland 82 67

Disabled workers earning less than £15 an hour (figures from LFS Q3 2021-Q2 2022) by INDUSTRY

Disability: equality act (GSS harmonised) Equality Act Disabled Not Equality Act Disabled
Mining and quarrying 63 29
Manufacturing 63 53
Electricity, gas, air cond supply 75 35
Water supply, sewerage, waste 87 49
Construction 59 48
Wholesale, retail, repair of vehicles 94 77
Transport and storage 73 65
Information and communication 39 24
Financial and insurance activities 58 30
Real estate activities 70 50
Prof, scientific, technical activ. 44 36
Admin and support services 86 67
Public admin and defence 57 44
Education 63 50
Health and social work 77 57
Arts, entertainment and recreation 89 67
Other service activities 71 58
  • ZHC data is taken from the Q2 2022 of the LFS.  
  • Minimum wage: On 17 November the Chancellor announced that from 1 April 2023, the government will increase the National Living Wage (NLW) by 9.7% to £10.42 an hour, for those aged 23 and over:  
  • Disability pay gap: Analysis published by the TUC found that non-disabled workers now earn a sixth (17.2%) more than disabled workers. The analysis found that the pay gap for disabled workers currently stands at £2.05 an hour – or £3,731 per year for someone working a 35-hour week:  
  • £15 an hour minimum wage: In August the TUC set out a roadmap to a £15 an hour minimum wage and a high wage economy:  
  • The TUC report ‘Raising pay for everyone: A plan for a high wage economy and a £15 minimum wage’ is available here:  
  • Higher cost of living: Research shows that disabled people face higher than average household costs than non-disabled people: and disabled adults are more likely than non-disabled adults to be struggling to pay their bills: 
  • The median wage is £14.70 an hour. 

3 in 4 disabled workers earn less than £15 an hour was published on FE News by Trades Union Congress (TUC)

Source: FE News