HM Insights

Increasing the Employment of Disabled People in the Public Sector

The Scottish Government has launched a Consultation - Have your say by 15 August 2018

The disability employment gap – which refers to the difference in employment rates between disabled and non-disabled people – currently sits at around 37% in Scotland, significantly higher than the majority of other European countries.  Luxembourg, Sweden, France and Turkey all report figures of less than 10%, while Latvia, Finland, Switzerland and Italy also report figures well below the Scottish figure.  Despite making up 20% of the Scottish population, only 11% of the private sector workforce is disabled, and for the public sector this is marginally higher, sitting at 11.7%.
In December 2016 the Scottish Government published "A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People – Our Action Plan", which was jointly developed with disabled people and various representative organisations. The plan sets out 93 commitments which aim to improve the lives of disabled people in Scotland and set an ambitious target to reduce the disability employment gap by at least half by 2021. In recent months the Scottish Government has engaged with all stakeholders to consider how this ambitious target can be reached. As the employer of around a fifth of the total workforce in Scotland, the public sector was identified as having a crucial role to play in this regard.  Currently only around one in nine public sector employees are disabled (approximately 77,000) despite, as mentioned, making up one fifth of the working age population in Scotland.
Understanding that the public sector has the potential to lead the way in this regard, the consultation aims to identify how best to reach the ambition of halving the employment gap and increase the number of disabled people employed in the public sector.  It seeks views on how best to meet this target and looks at how to create accurate and robust monitoring mechanisms.  It is noted that an all Scotland approach is required to implement the required changes in culture, systems and practice to support disabled people into work and, crucially, ensure they are able to remain and progress in work for as long as they are physically able to.

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Measuring/reporting issues

The Consultation highlights that a lack of robust data on disability employment levels is problematic.  This is particularly prevalent in public sector bodies and therefore creates a challenge for the setting and monitoring of targets.

Schedule 19 of the Equality Act 2010 lists all public sector bodies that are subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED).  Under the PSED, public sector bodies are required to collate data on the number of disabled people they employ and report on this every two years.  Despite the APS figures reporting the gap to be 11.7%, a representative sample of public sector bodies showed on average, less than 5% of staff were reported as disabled. It may be that staff are reluctant to declare any disability through fear of negative reactions, repercussions or misunderstanding, as well as concern for the impact on further career progression.  Similarly, many people who would satisfy the definition of disability as set out in the 2010 Act do not actually perceive themselves to be disabled.
Clearly, improving this self-declaration rate is vital in order to obtain a clearer understanding of the challenge.  The consultation seeks views on how public sector bodies can better support this self-reporting and improve response rates and importantly, the quality of data.


The consultation paper sets out four proposed targets and seeks views on which of these may be considered suitable.  It highlights the importance of considering the varying size, scope and functions of public bodies which varies significantly across the country.  It is important that any targets take these variations into account to ensure that meaningful and achievable targets are established. 

Other measures

Chapter 3 of the paper discusses other possible options which could be used, either in place of, or in addition to, the setting of targets.  It focuses on two case studies; one involving the NHS work placement and internship scheme and the other on the Scottish Government's recruitment procedures.  Respondents are asked to consider these schemes and make suggestions as to other measures which could be put in place to ensure public sector employment is more achievable for disabled people while their continued employment and career progression is adequately supported.


Responses to this consultation are invited until 15 August 2018 through the Scottish Government's consultation platform, Citizen Space. 
To view the consultation paper and to respond please click here.