Dual discrimination and disabled women

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2023 National Women's Conference
13 October 2022
Carried as Amended

Conference is concerned about the level of discrimination that disabled women are subjected to every day. Conference is further concerned at the government’s continuing failure to implement Section 14 of the Equality Act 2010 which offers protection against dual and multiple discrimination.

At 14%, the Disability Pay Gap is the UK’s biggest pay gap and while the gap between disabled men and non-disabled men may be bigger than the gap between disabled women and non-disabled women this is in the main due to men being paid more than women. Disabled women are paid less than both non-disabled women and disabled men. Yet there is no requirement for employers to monitor either the disability pay gap or to consider disabled women when monitoring and reporting on the gender pay gap.

And nothing much changes when we consider the Disability Employment Gap. While 81.1% of non-disabled people are in employment, the rate for disabled people is almost 30% less at just 52.3%. Again, the gap appears to be higher between disabled men and non-disabled men, at least until you dig further into the data and look at the economic inactivity rate.

The economic inactivity rate is people who are not in employment but who the government claims are not actively looking for work, usually because they aren’t claiming any employment related benefits. While the difference in the economic activity rate between disabled and non-disabled men is around 20%, the gap between disabled and non-disabled women is a staggering 32%. And as benefits are more often than not paid to the man in a mixed-gender household this means many disabled women are not able to independently support themselves financially.

And it isn’t just in the workplace where disabled women are at a disadvantage compared to both disabled men and non-disabled women. It’s in almost every area of society.

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) there are serious barriers for people with learning disabilities in accessing information about sex and contraception and that disabled pregnant women do not receive appropriate support.

The EHRC also found that disabled women are disproportionately at risk from all forms of violence and abuse including from carers, partners and people in the community. Women with learning disabilities and mental health conditions are also more likely to experience sexual violence. And to make the situation even worse, less than 2% of women’s refuge spaces in England are wheelchair accessible.

Disabled people were also more impacted by COVID-19 than any other group. Almost 60% of people who lost their lives to COVID were disabled. But once again it was disabled women who were at the greatest risk as they were 1.6 times more likely to die from COVID compared to 1.4 times more for disabled men.

These statistics are shocking but not surprising. Other examples of where disabled women are hit the hardest include cuts to public spending, welfare reform and lone parent households (most of whom are women) where the parent is disabled. Disabled women also face significant discrimination in education, in health care and even in accessing goods and services.

A recent report by the London School of Economics (LSE) found that in the UK gender policies tend to ignore the needs of disabled women and disability policies have a gender-blind approach.

Disabled people are often seen as sexless with their life only affected by their disability but this isn’t true. Disabled women are more economically marginalised compared to both disabled men and non-disabled women, more likely to receive poorer health care, less likely to secure well paid jobs despite often having better qualifications than their male counterparts and can expect to face abuse and violence more often than any other group in society.

Conference believes it is right that the fight for disabled people’s rights includes all disabled people. We don’t want to see disabled men become worse off because they are levelled down to match disabled women. We want to see equality for all disabled people but to achieve that we have to recognise that gender is a factor that we need to consider in the fight for disability equality.

Conference calls on the National Women’s Committee to work with the National Disabled Members Committee and the National Executive Council to:

1. Campaign for Section 14 of the Equality Act to be implemented

2. Prepare a briefing note for regions and branches on Section 14 of the Equality Act.

3. Work with Labour Link to seek to secure a commitment that the next Labour government will implement Section 14 of the Equality Act in their first year in office.

4. Include the impact on disabled women when responding to consultations on gender equality.

5. Work with the health service group executive to seek to ensure disabled women’s voices are included in all phases of the development and implementation of the Women’s Health Strategy.

6. Join the campaign to make disability pay and employment gap reporting mandatory for employers with over 250 people.