Stat of the day: Occupations of people with ‘severe disabilities’

By Angela Matthews

Apologies for the statistics silence. They are piling up, and I will get around to writing them. It was imperative that I write a disability stat for International Day of Disabled People, though – the theme of which this year is Break Barriers, Open Doors: For an inclusive society and development for all. This morning’s statistics release from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is particularly relevant.

ONS’ data looks at the occupations of disabled people whose daily activities are “limited a lot” (which ONS also refer to as “severe disability”). There are seven classes of job types. Class 7 refers to the ‘routine’ occupations such as labourers, bar staff and lorry drivers, and Class 1 refers to the managerial and professional occupations such as lawyers, doctors and architects. The data finds that the largest number of disabled people occupy Class 7 (routine) roles, and the smallest number occupy Class 1 (managerial/professional) roles. This, as ONS advocate, suggests that significant barriers to higher skilled professions remain for people with severe disabilities.

Another interesting aspect of the data is that the number of severely disabled people working in ‘routine’ (Class 7) or ‘semi-routine’ (Class 6) jobs is greater than the number of severely disabled people who are unemployed. ONS suggest that this indicates that disability does not prevent people with severe disabilities from accessing working altogether, but that it just appears that certain types of work are more accessible than others for those with severe disabilities – an issue in itself.

What could be the reasons for this? If we look to earlier data from ONS (mentioned in a previous ‘Stat if the Day’ some months ago), disabled people indicated what they felt the barriers to employment are. The ‘top’ barriers were:
Lack of qualifications;
Difficulties with transport;
Modifications or adjustments to the job;
Attitudes of employers.
Could ‘routine’ positions be more accommodating to disabled people due to many of these roles often being able to operate in shift or flexible patterns which can often be switched among employees if flexibility is required? We see this in the Advice Team often where some employers have told us during a query that they have moved shifts around as an adjustment for an employee’s disability. In some cases, this has allowed for an employee to work only afternoon/evening shifts when mornings are difficult due to  side-effects of medication or where a disability tends to fluctuate (for example).

Do any of the four barriers bulleted above become more of an issue as the grade or level of occupation increases? How much is it possible to sustain flexibility at higher levels of occupation, how much is down to an employer’s attitudes, and how much is due to the lack of provision of – or understanding of – reasonable adjustments?


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