Disabled people who have had more than a year out from the workforce are treated twice as harshly as their non-disabled counterparts, a report out today warns.
According to the research by the Resolution Foundation, the chances of a disabled person being able to re-enter the workforce during any particular quarter drop to just 2.4 per cent if they have been out of work for more than a year, compared with the 16 per cent chance they stand if they have been out of the workforce for less than a year.
These figures mean that a disabled person's chance of being able to re-enter the workforce is 6.5 times lower if they spend more than year unemployed.
By comparison, non-disabled people are only three times less likely to be able to find employment if they have been out of work for more than a year, meaning disabled people are being stung with a penalty twice as harsh for long-term unemployment.
The think tank is now warning that a radical new approach, designed to prevent disabled people from dropping out of the workforce in the first place, is needed if government is to have any chance of reaching its targets for disability employment.
"The current focus on supporting people after they have been assessed for benefits is misguided, with help arriving too late and on too small a scale for the millions of people who need it," said Laura Gardiner, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation. "A ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach that improves support and incentives in the workplace and during periods of sickness absence should be at the centre of the government’s forthcoming Green Paper on boosting disability employment.
"Such an approach would mean fewer workers have to experience the stress of being out of work, employers see a reduction in their staff turnover and the government can make faster progress in its laudable ambition to halve the disability employment gap."
The Resolution Foundation has previously advised that government should take a similar approach to over-50s - as in, looking into ways to help this category of worker stay in employment, rather than looking into how to get them back into the labour market once they have already left – if it is to have any hope of reaching its target for full employment.