Research shows disability has lasting negative effect on employment

New research highlights the need for policy support to be directed towards helping those who develop a disability to retain work owing to the lasting negative effect on employment even when they recover.

WISERD academics Professor Melanie Jones and Rhys Davies from Cardiff University and Professor Stephen Drinkwater, University of Roehampton, researched the impact of disability on employment in Britain using a longitudinal survey between 2004 and 2010.

The analysis indicates that the likelihood of being in work falls by 21% in the first two years following a work-limiting disability, with weekly hours of work falling by a total of 23%. However, two years after recovering from a work-limiting disability, the likelihood of being in work only increases by 9%.

Prof Drinkwater from Roehampton Business School explains, “Work-limiting disability has a significant impact on employment and the labour market. Our findings point to a much smaller effect on the number of people who find work again once they have recovered. This may be partly due to a scarring effect in that employers may discriminate – either directly or indirectly – against people who have gaps in their employment due to disability.”

The authors recommend that resources should be focused on reducing the risk of disability as well as supporting individuals to retain their jobs at the start of their work-limiting disability. “The welfare system tends to support disabled people who are unable to work rather than in order to maintain work,” Prof Drinkwater continues. “Further support should be offered to employers and employees at the stage of onset, such as through workplace adaptations and development of the government’s ‘Fit For Work’ programme.”

The research paper analysed differences in the impact of disability across socio-demographic characteristics including gender, age and education. There is a bigger impact on employment for those with mental health disabilities, whilst younger individuals and women are less affected than other demographic groups.

Prof Jones from Cardiff Business School suggests that “The more pronounced decline in employment among those who experience disability onset resulting from mental rather than physical health conditions is consistent with the need for policy support to be tailored to different conditions.”

Read the full report online: The Dynamics of Disability and Work in Britain

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