Landmark Parliamentary meeting on disability pay gap

13 March 2020

  • Workforce Information Bill plans to extend pay gap reporting to disability
  • APPG for Disability meeting builds suport for Lord Shinkwin's bill
  • Former Work and Pensions Secretary Sir Iain Duncan Smith backs reforms
  • Professor Kim Hoque of WBS plays key role in organising landmark meeting

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Disability has held a landmark meeting in its bid to press the UK Government to introduce mandatory employment and pay gap reporting for disabled workers.

The APPG, whose secretariat is co-provided by Warwick Business School, organised the meeting to support the Workforce Information Bill recently introduced by Lord Shinkwin.

Companies are already required to report their gender pay gap. The new Bill, introduced in the House of Lords, would extend mandatory pay gap reporting to disability and other protected characteristics for big businesses with 250 employees or more.

It would also require them to report the number and percentage of people in each protected characteristic (including disability) they employ.

Speaking at the meeting, former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rt Hon Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, expressed his full support for the Bill.  

Also in attendance at the meeting, which Professor Kim Hoque, Director of the Industrial Relations Unit at Warwick Business School played a pivotal role in organising, were Government officials from the Cabinet Office, Department for Work and Pensions, Office for National Statistics, Ministry of Defence, and the Government Equalities Office, along with representatives from Leonard Cheshire, Sense, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the Trades Union Congress and the Business Disability Forum.

Giving his support for the extension of mandatory employment and pay gap reporting, Sir Iain said: “As Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, I was always keen to explore innovative schemes that helped demonstrate the added value of diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Time and again I came across best practice, but there was no consistency or transparency in how it was measured.

"I therefore set up Disability Confident to help make the business case. It’s now 25 years since we introduced the Disability Discrimination Act, and I believe the time is right to go further. That’s why I support Lord Shinkwin’s call for the creation of a level playing field to recognise and reward big business best practice in employment, and it’s why I’m backing his Bill.

He added: “The business advantages of employing disabled people and developing a diverse workforce are clear. Light-touch reforms, requiring big businesses to publish workforce data should help achieve equality of opportunity for disabled people and those with other protected characteristics while ensuring big business also maximises the benefits of harnessing a diverse pool of talent.

"We need to incentivise and reward big businesses for taking positive action for the right reasons – because it makes good business sense. Ultimately, it’s about equality of opportunity, about levelling up to the mutual benefit of the individual, business and the economy as a whole. The collection and publication of data is the logical next step on that road.”

Backing the bill: (left to right) Stuart Moore, Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, Lord Shinkwin, Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Baroness Uddin, Professor Kim Hoque of Warwick Business School and Professor Nick Bacon

 

The meeting was chaired by disabled Conservative Peer, Lord Shinkwin, who is Vice Chair of the APPG for Disability. Alongside Sir Iain, other speakers included Dr Lisa Cameron MP, who chairs the APPG for Disability; Anna Denham, Disability Rights UK; Stuart Moore, Project Co-ordinator for NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard; Professor Nick Bacon, Cass Business School; and Professor Hoque.

Emphasising the absence of practical obstacles preventing big business employers from implementing transparent reporting, Stuart Moore reported that the NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard already requires Trusts to report a range of disability metrics, while Professor Bacon similarly highlighted that employers with Federal Government contracts in the United States are also periodically required to collect data on their employees’ disability status. Other UK organisations including the Civil Service, BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and Sky also report disability employment data, as do both EY and Clifford Chance.

University of Warwick leading by example

The University of Warwick has also already taken the progressive step of reporting both the number of disabled people it employs and its disability pay gap within each pay grade.

Professor Chris Ennew, University of Warwick Provost, who chairs the University’s Social Inclusion Committee said: “We have seen how transparency in reporting pay and progression experience in relation to other protected characteristics has helped to drive change in policy and practice. The University of Warwick has now decided to include formal reporting of our Disability and Ethnicity pay gaps as part of the Gender Pay Gap Report that is due in March. Transparent reporting is essential in achieving equality, and I am really pleased to see the central role Warwick Business School is playing in working with the APPG for Disability to push this agenda forward.

Professor Hoque argued that by backing the measures in Lord Shinkwin’s Bill, the Government would be able to spread these existing pockets of good practice more widely across the economy.

He said: “The Government is already fully aware of the potentially transformational benefits of disability employment reporting. For evidence of this you only need to look as far as the Government’s framework for Voluntary Reporting on Disability, Mental Health and Wellbeing, introduced in 2018, in which it argues that transparent reporting can help employers improve employee engagement and retention, better understand the experiences of disabled people, better monitor internal progress in building a more inclusive environment, and access a wider pool of talent and skills through promoting inclusive and disability-friendly recruitment, retention and progression policies.

"By backing Lord Shinkwin’s Bill, the Government would be able to bring these benefits to all employers, not just the few that have opted in voluntarily thus far.”

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of the Business Disability Forum, similarly commented: “There is clear value in disability employment reporting in pushing the issue of disability employment up the corporate agenda and in enabling employers to identify what they are doing well and where they need to improve.”

However, she also added: “Reporting is more complicated for disability than for some other strands of diversity; many disabilities are not immediately visible and employers are therefore reliant on disabled employers feeling comfortable enough to be open with them.

It is vital that employers build a culture which encourages disabled people to talk about the support they need, with visible role models at the highest levels. Reporting which also looks at the number of employees who have adjustments in place will also help build a clearer picture of disabled people in the workforce.”

Quinn Roache, Trades Union Congress policy officer, also expressed support, and said: “The TUC is an unequivocal supporter of mandatory disability reporting, and views it as essential in helping close the £3,000 per year pay gap disabled people face. It is heartening to see the strength of feeling from across a broad range of stakeholders for the introduction of mandatory reporting, and I look forward to continuing to work with the APPG for Disability in making it a reality.”

Commenting on the meeting, Lord Shinkwin said: “The meeting was really encouraging because it demonstrated for the first time the growing consensus across a range of stakeholders including parliamentarians, both sides of industry, professional bodies and Government departments, for the extension of mandatory reporting. This gives the APPG and myself a solid platform from which to press our case with Ministers.

"This is an important and substantial step forward, and if we finally see the extension of mandatory pay gap and employment reporting, ideally through the incorporation of the measures in my Bill within the forthcoming Employment Bill, this meeting will have been a landmark moment in bringing it about. I would like to thank Professor Hoque for the central role he played in organising the meeting, and for the ongoing work in which we are jointly engaged in seeking improvements to UK Government disability employment policy”.

Baroness Uddin, a longstanding officer of the APPG for Disability and Autism, added: “I wholeheartedly support the proposals for mandatory reporting, and together we call upon the Government to put these proposals into practice. I will continue to support any and all efforts to secure a commitment from our Government and to assist in any way I can to develop a timeline for this to happen.”

Dr Lisa Cameron MP also paid tribute to WBS for its role in co-providing the secretariat to the APPG for Disability.

“I would like to thank Warwick Business School for their invaluable ongoing support for the APPG, both in terms of the resources they have made available to fund a Parliamentary aide in my Westminster office, and also Professor Hoque’s input to the APPG’s strategic direction,” she said. This has proved critical in enhancing the APPG’s influence within Parliament, and in developing a programme of events that will provide a catalyst for substantive policy change.

I will be continuing my regular meetings with the Minister for Disabled People in the coming weeks, and I will be pleased to have Professor Hoque’s support in those meetings. I look forward to continuing to work with Warwick Business School in seeking to improve the lives of millions of disabled people across the UK.

Kim Hoque is Professor of Human Resource Management and Director of the Industrial Relations Research Unit at Warwick Business School. For further information on Professor Hoque’s work on disability go to www.disabilityatwork.co.uk.

Join the conversation

WBS on social media