‘Mind the Gap’

Developing the Empowered Employers campaign has involved collating and understanding data from various sources. The research has been compiled on the campaign website to offer insights into the experiences disabled people, neurodivergent people and people with mental health conditions have with employment and employers. Data is ever-changing and so in this mini blogpost series, we look at the latest key facts and figures, unpack possible factors impacting change, and include links to resources and further reading.

The Disability Employment Gap

The Disability Employment Gap is not the easiest to explain concisely – but I’ll try!

It involves comparing how many disabled people there are in work and how many non-disabled people there are in work. It only includes those who are able to work (‘economically active’). The comparison is made by looking at two different percentages and seeing the gap between them (described as ‘percentage points’).

The gap shows us inequalities and has been a driver of the Empowered Employers campaign since its launch last year.

People can be unable to work (‘economically inactive’) for several reasons including long-term health conditions and disabilities; taking on the role of full-time carer for a child or relative; retirement; and studying full-time. These groups of people are not counted in the statistics.

Gloucestershire’s Disability Employment Gap

In December 2022, Gloucestershire’s Disability Employment Gap was 25.9 percentage points (1).

This is narrower than the gap in 2021 (when it was 27.3 percentage points). However, the current gap is bigger than the average for England (which is 24.4 percentage points).

This means that in December 2022 in Gloucestershire, 6 in 10 (61.4%) economically active disabled people were in work compared to nearly 9 in 10 (87.3%) economically active non-disabled people.


A black and white diagram with a row of non-disabled people at the top and a row of disabled people at the bottom. On the top row, 9 of the 10 figure are coloured in, while in the bottom row, 6 of the coloured people are coloured in.


Unpacking the Disability Employment Gap

Data often only tells us part of the story – especially statistical data such as this. As researchers and campaigners we need to dig deeper, consider everything happening at the time, cross-referencing our insights with those of others, and ask questions that shed light.

The Disability Employment Gap is the consequence of multiple social barriers coming together to limit the opportunities for disabled people to work:

These areas were highlighted in our own research: State of Gloucestershire. In 2021, Barnwood Trust surveyed over 260 disabled people and people with mental health conditions about different areas of their lives, including work. As well as barriers related to their health, we heard how a lack of confidence and poor transport made employment more difficult to access.

We also heard about what could be done to address these barriers. For example, the availability of flexible working options, inclusive employment practices (which might include changes to attitudes, policies, and the physical workspace), and better access to information about what employment opportunities are available for people to choose from. This might involve employers providing timely information about schemes such as Access to Work or reasonable adjustments (ideally at the recruitment stage) or offering flexible working to increase the opportunities available to disabled people.

To close the gap, there is a need to reassess attitudes to disabled people: to recognise their experiences and skills as something that employers and workplaces are missing out on. Inclusive working environments have been shown to be more productive working environments which are also better for business. (6).

The Empowered Employers campaign has been seeking to do just that; running learning events with employers, sharing the experiences of disabled people, neurodivergent people and people with mental health conditions, and highlighting the vast array of resources available to employers.

Read more about Statistics on Work & Employment.

Dan Jacques, Lead Researcher at Barnwood Trust


(1) Office for National Statistics (2023) Annual Population Survey Data – Last Updated December 2022, data available at: https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/query/construct/summary.asp?menuopt=200&subcomp=

Data queried: Employment Rate aged 16-64 – EA core or work-limiting disabled and Employment Rate aged 16-64 – not EA core or work-limiting disabled x England and Gloucestershire x December 2022 (latest data)

(2) Leonard Cheshire (2019) Reimagining the Workplace report available at: https://www.leonardcheshire.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/reimagining-the-workplace-disability-inclusive-employment.pdf

(3) Leonard Cheshire (2019), see Source 2

(4) Barnwood Trust (2022) State of Gloucestershire: Employment report available at: http://www.barnwoodtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Employment-Booklet-DIGITAL.pdf

(5) Department for Work and Pensions (2022) The Employment of Disabled People 2021, report available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/the-employment-of-disabled-people-2021/the-employment-of-disabled-people-2021

(6) Accenture (2018) Getting to Equal: The disability inclusion advantage report available at: www.accenture.com/content/dam/accenture/final/a-com-migration/custom/_acnmedia/pdf-89/Accenture-Disability-Inclusion-Research-Report.pdf