DWP urged to be “bolder” in ambitions to reduce disability employment gap

30 Jul 2021

The Work and Pensions Committee has called on the government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to be “bolder in its ambitions” to support disabled people to find and stay in work.

The Work and Pensions Committee has today released a report entitled ‘Disability employment gap’ shortly after the DWP’s National Disability Strategy which was published on 28 July.

The report by the Work and Pensions Committee was in part informed by evidence from organisations, including Epilepsy Action, on the challenges disabled people face with employment. People with epilepsy are one of the groups that are most severely affected by the disability employment gap.

The report urges the DWP to readopt its previous target of halving the disability employment gap, which has stayed at around 30% over the years. It has also called for the DWP to introduce a target of getting an additional 1.2 million disabled people in work by 2027. The report has criticised the lack of ambition in setting a new target, saying the current target the DWP has is benefitting from a general rise in employment rather than a reduction in the disability employment gap.

Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, MP Stephen Timms, has also said a more localised, rather than centralised, approach to providing support for people is needed, that is “personalised, flexible and effective”. He also stressed that disabled people should be involved in the conversations and decision-making, in order for changes to be useful and fit-for-purpose. “Only then can we start to break down barriers to employment and ensure everyone has equal opportunities when it comes to work,” he said.

The report has echoed many of the recommendations made by Epilepsy Action, including for more transparency, better benefits systems and more targeted assessment processes. The report has suggested that employers with more than 250 employees should publish data on the proportion of workers who are disabled, and for employers who “flout the law” around reasonable adjustments to be “named and shamed”. The report also stresses that disabled people should be supported to work flexibly and wherever best suits them – including at home where possible.

The Work and Pensions Committee has also said various schemes and assessments need to be redesigned. These include Access to Work, a scheme intended to support people with extra costs for practical support in the workplace and the Disability Confident programme, that educates employers on the benefits of recruiting disabled employees. They also include the Work Capability Assessment for people applying for Employment Support Allowance. They are currently time-consuming and not fit for purpose, and need to be improved, the report suggests.

Daniel Jennings, senior policy and campaigns officer at Epilepsy Action, who gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee on behalf of the organisation, said: “Epilepsy Action welcomes the Work and Pensions Committee’s report into the disability employment gap. We know that people with epilepsy are one of the groups most severely affected. This is despite the fact that many can have successful careers and stay in work with minimal reasonable adjustments from their employers.

“We are pleased that the committee has accepted many of the recommendations made in both our oral and written evidence to the inquiry. We agree that both Access to Work and Disability Confident need to be reformed to support people with epilepsy in securing, and staying in, their jobs.

“We also welcome the recommendation that employers should be required to publish data on the proportion of workers who are disabled, as an effective way of holding them to account and closing the disability employment gap.

“This report comes on the back of the government’s National Disability Strategy which had been touted as a transformational plan for disabled people. But it lacked any detail on how this so-called transformation would actually be achieved. We will continue to raise these issues with the government to ensure that much more is done to close the disability employment gap, particularly for people with epilepsy.”

The full Disability employment gap report and the National Disability Strategy can be accessed online.

Epilepsy Action has recently released its Employer toolkit, which aims to give organisations the confidence to better support employees with epilepsy in the workplace. You can also find information about employment and epilepsy on the Epilepsy Action website.


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Comments: read the 7 comments or add yours


I recently had a rather large seizure at work, My employer who turns out did not have any first aiders on site or trained in the company at all. During the seizure one of the team leaders placed a metal spoon through the side of my mouth to stop me swallowing my tongue, subsequently breaking my side teeth.

Is there anything I can do, report it? Is it serious? I have since left the company on medical grounds.

Submitted by Rob
Hi Rob
This must be a really upsetting situation for you.
The Health and Safety Executive says that an employer must make appropriate first aid arrangements for their workplace. But depending on the nature of the workplace, there isn't always a requirement for them to have a trained first aider: https://www.hse.gov.uk/firstaid/what-employers-need-to-do.htm
We have some first aid advice which says don't put anything in someone's mouth when they're having a seizure: What to do when someone has a seizure | Epilepsy Action. This is because of the risk of injury. So it is important that people know not to do this. 
You may be able to do something about what's happened. The Health and Safety Executive have a reporting system: https://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/concerns.htm
We've got some information about dealing with problems at work: www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/employment. This has links to other organisations that can give advice about work and might might be helpful to talk to one of them.
I hope this information is helpful
Epilepsy Action Helpline Team. 
Submitted by Mags - Epilepsy...

As a student I worked on Saturdays in a superstore, on one Saturday I had a seizure, when the store had closed and we were tidying up, I was told the week later by the manager that I was an embarrassment to myself. I felt worthless and intimidated, and totally useless.

I am now a solicitor and specialise in mental health. I also own my firm and employ 10 staff. I ensure that people always feel needed and important to the working of my firm, as indeed they are. I also ensure that my employees illnesses are catered for and that they are looked after. I would never want any of my staff to feel the way I did.

Submitted by Lisa Marie

I am now retired, but when I could work I had a lovely job in a 'cash centre' for a well known Bank. In My first 5 yrs, I had no problems with any sz's I'd had. The company got 'taken over' by another bank. After that, I got moved about and put into a dept. which wasn't very safe for me, if I had a sz. (there wasn't a lot of room if I fell). I eventually left after another 5 yrs, despite trying to be moved into a safer dept, where I'd worked before.
After that, I found it hard to get an interview. If I did, things went fine UNTIL they asked if I had any 'health' problems.
I did do voluntary work in charity shops. The first shop was great (couldn't ask for any better). The second shop couldn't handle it, if I had a sz. The manager there told me to ring them up and tell them if I was going to have a sz. and not go in. LOL (I wish I could've done that)

Submitted by Sue Carpenter

I was working in a care home. Was admitted 2 days after having 5 seizures at home. The team leader was not happy because they couldn’t find cover. It seemed as if I was off work deliberately. They next day after discharge I felt fizzle during my shift because of the stronger tablet they prescribed for 3days. I just kept quiet worried that I would be told off.

I was never off work due to sickness. I was told to find work somewhere else. Surprisingly the management were sympathetic not my Team leader.

Submitted by Juliet Mano

Told in lecture I was reasonable for a lecturer who unfortunately had a heart attack that I was reasonable for his death
And told by employer to have another brain operation

Submitted by Graham

I am afraid its lack of education by the employer and fear harking back to the Dark Ages when epilepsy was thought to be akin to madness. I did Yoga Therapy training and each month we had a so called expert in to discuss different topics. All well and good till the airhead who was discussing the nervous system asked what should we do if someone in the class had a fit. Her words not mine. She threw me out of the class for saying seizures is the preferable word

Submitted by lynn fitness
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