Around 9.3 per cent of the industry’s workforce is disabled.
At the end of December last year, there were around 2.3m people working in construction according to the Office for National Statistics, which means roughly 213,900 of those have a disability. This equates to a workforce around the same size as the population of Luton. But this could be expanded even further.
There are around 13.3m disabled people living in the UK – but only 3.4m of those are in employment. Furthermore, disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people.
Why does this disabled employment gap exist? It’s a complex issue, but research conducted by charity Scope points to factors such as employer attitudes, lack of support for disabled people in the workplace, and inaccessible infrastructure preventing those with disabilities getting to work.
Bridging the gap
However, bridging this gap could bring big economic benefits. If one million more disabled people were supported into work, this would contribute an extra £45bn to the UK’s economy by 2030.
Construction in particular would do well to harness this pool of talent, as sourcing labour from a diminishing pool is one of the biggest issues the industry faces.
According to Arcadis, the sector needs to recruit two million people in five years to deliver the housing and mega projects in the industry’s pipeline.
“Employers are missing out on the talent they badly need because they don’t have the right support in place, or because of outdated attitudes towards disability”
James Taylor, Scope
But with Brexit placing question marks on how easy it will be to access an EU workforce, compounded by a retiring population and a lack of young people coming into the industry, construction needs to think fast to source its labour.
Recruiting a more diverse workforce is certainly one way we could do this, and Scope head of policy and public affairs James Taylor says business needs to benefit from this.
“Employers are missing out on the talent they badly need because they don’t have the right support in place, or because of outdated attitudes towards disability,” he says.
“To have a modern, inclusive society, it is also crucial that our built environment does not disable people because of their impairment. Supporting more disabled people to work in the construction industry is surely one step towards achieving this.”
Creating a modern industry – one that reflects the society it serves – would be just one of the positive upshots of contractors embracing the potential of disabled workers.