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The ‘Disability Price Tag’ for disabled employees

£975 per month in a purple box, against an out-of-focus payment card receipt.

Image credit: Scope

The extra costs of being disabled are many and diverse. Scope calls this the Disability Price Tag, and their latest findings are that disabled people’s households need an additional £975 a month to have the same standard of living as non-disabled households.

Earlier this year, Angela Matthews, Head of Policy and Research at Business Disability Forum spoke at Westminster Employment Forum on the financial barriers that impact if and how disabled people chose to work (or not). She spoke about the following five things that disabled employees working in our member organisations told her they spend money on each month directly related to managing their disability.

Adaptations made to their homes

Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) are managed by local authorities and provide funding for disabled people to have adaptations made to their homes – stairlifts, widening doors, wet rooms, for example. However, this scheme cannot cope in many regions; many disabled people and suppliers have recently been citing a two-year waiting list even before someone contacts a disabled person just to do an assessment for the grant. As a result, social services in some regions have been advising that people fund their own adaptations if they can. Adaptations can range from installing wet rooms and stairlifts, to grab rails and ramps. Self-funding means funded the equipment as well as the installation.

Adjustments to common parts of private residential buildings

The Government has proposed that adjustments to common parts of a residential building – stairways, car parks, corridor lighting, for example – can be requested from the landlord, but the proposals have allowed for the landlord to be able to pass the costs of those adjustments to the disabled person. In addition, the support that the Government said is available to help disabled people pay for these adjustments around their homes is the above-mentioned Disabled Facilities Grant – the grants scheme that is experiencing waiting lists of up to two years.

Adaptations and equipment for the day-to-day

The NHS is overwhelmed and occupational therapy and physiotherapy teams cannot provide the amount of equipment they used to. Disabled people increasingly report going to their NHS appointments where they get to try adaptations and equipment that would help them at home, when travelling around, and at work, and they are then given the website links and catalogues for where to purchase them. Although these are not technically ‘workplace adjustments’, many disabled people need these aids, medical garments, and adaptations to go to work and do their job.  This is why many employers continue to call our advice team to ask if they should be purchasing these types of aids and medical garments as an employer – because having them impacts if someone can be comfortable at work, or work at all.

Items that fall between the remits of medical support and workplace adjustments

We spoke to disabled employees in our membership and they were spending their Personal Independent Payments (PIP) awards on things that help them do their job in their work environment. These included:

  • Hearing aids that are the basic NHS models that just don’t suit many modern working environment.
  • Addition al training for a guide dog.
  • Different compressions and hand splints for the working environment.
  • Adapted business clothes (trousers without zips, for example).
  • Wheelchairs that better suit commercial, workplace flooring.

These things are often viewed by the employee as being workplace adjustments – because they need them to work – but the employer often does not see them in this way. Neither are wrong. The issues is rather that these things fall in between two Government policy areas – medical items (health and social care) and workplace adjustments (employment). But it is ultimately the disabled person who picks up the bill for this ‘policy gap’.

Cancer medication

During our research on cancer, our Head of Policy and Research interviewed employees who are working with cancer. She found that many cannot get their cancer medication on the NHS, so one of two things were happening:

  • Either, they do everything they can to stay in work so they can access their employers’ Group Income Protection (GIP) scheme which many say often does cover the medication. This of course means they stay working when many felt they should probably leave work (but that would mean losing access to their employers’ GIP).
  • Or, they take out loans to pay for the medication themselves which, for some, costed up to £10,000 per purchase.

These are just a few examples of the extra costs of having a disability outside of the commonly cited (but equally important) energy usage and accessible transport options (such as increased use of taxis).

This Disability Price Tag impacts the choices disabled people make about work: they may seek promotion to increase their salary to pay for their ‘extra costs’ or, equally, they may resist reducing hours to prevent losing income when this option may in fact be better suited to them. Making disabled people work harder or make decisions that negatively impact their body and how they can manage their condition must not be the answer to dealing with the Disability Price Tag. We also continue to hear this is not about ‘how much someone earns’: as with our cost of living work, we found that disabled people at all levels of an organisation experience and worry about the direct extra costs incurred because of their disability.

Business Disability Forum continues to work with the Government and other disability charities on the extra costs of being disabled. We have been encouraged by businesses putting this on their agendas at sector level, too. If you have any questions, please contact Angela at

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