Work & Education

The impact of Covid-19 on disability and employment: make your voice heard

Charity Leonard Cheshire is launching an employment campaign calling for the Chancellor to put in place a disability-inclusive recovery on Budget Day, 3rd March. And you can help to make a difference by sharing your story and supporting the campaign by writing to the Chancellor – it’s easy and quick to do.

Our research into the effect of Covid-19 on disabled adults and employment has highlighted that 7 in 10 disabled people employed in March (71%) have been impacted by the loss of income, furlough, unemployment or other damaging effects as a result of the pandemic.

For 18 to 24-year-olds, the situation is even more acute, with 84% feeling the effects.

Furthermore, for many disabled people in this demographic, the impact is psychological. More than half (57%) said they felt that the pandemic had affected their ability to work, and 54% that it had hit their future earnings potential.


If you are aged 18 to 24 years old and have experienced issues with employment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, share your story with Leonard Cheshire to make your voice heard. Simply email Samuel.buckley@leonardcheshire.org.


Disability and employment during Covid-19

Having surveyed 1,171 working-age disabled people and 502 employers, our findings reveal the scale of the impact on jobs from Covid-19. It uncovered a ‘crisis of confidence’, among young disabled people who are pessimistic about their futures.

At the same time, the study seems to suggest that representation of disabled people in the workplace is in decline amid lingering discrimination in the employment of disabled people.

Leonard Cheshire graphic calling out for disabled people aged between 18 and 24 who have struggled with getting work or have become unemployed since the pandemic

Sophia Kleanthous, an alumna of our Change 100 programme based in London, said:

“In the past, I’ve been told I didn’t get a job I applied for because they were concerned my health would ‘get in the way’, that they needed someone who could be relied upon (referring to my disability) and that I’d be a burden to the company. This has to change.”

Employers seem to be discouraged from hiring disabled people due to the pandemic. Two in five (42%) of employers said that a barrier to doing so is being able to support them properly during the Covid-19 pandemic, and a fifth (20%) admitted they were less likely to hire a disabled person overall.

The proportion of employers who say their organisation employs any disabled staff had fallen to 33% in 2020, a 16 percentage point drop from 2018 (49%). Only 21% had hired any disabled people since 2018.

Lasting change to boost employment for disabled people

We have urged the government to act on the problems uncovered by the report. In particular, the measures in our ‘Plan For Jobs’ strategy, published in October 2020.

The Plan For Jobs outlines ways of ensuring the economic recovery from Covid-19 is disability inclusive. These consist of:

  • preserving the furlough scheme for shielders
  • introducing a Job Guarantee for young people
  • overhauling Universal Credit to protect disabled people from hardship.

It also proposes measures to make employers more inclusive, such as mandatory reporting on disability employment rates and pay.

We have also called for improvements to employment programmes for young people, such as the Kickstart scheme. Our own scheme for young disabled people, Change 100, is an example of how such programmes could continue during the pandemic.

Change 100 arranged 40 internships for disabled students and graduates in 2020 regardless of the pandemic. It also helped 52 students and graduates secure remote mentoring with employers.

Gemma Hope, Head of Policy at Leonard Cheshire, said:

“Our findings are stark. But we should see them not as gloomy forecasts for policymakers but as motivators for immediate, wide-ranging action. We must stress that prompt, decisive action can stop the trends we have identified from becoming more serious.

Still, we cannot understate the urgency of the challenge. Our study suggests that inclusive practices at employers have been put at risk by fears relating to Covid-19 as the economic outlook darkens.

We urge the government to take on the recommendations we make in the Plan For Jobs, and work with businesses to make our recovery from this downturn an inclusive one.”

We are looking for 18 to 24-year-olds who have had employment difficulties during the pandemic. If you are interested in sharing your experiences to help highlight these problems, contact Samuel.buckley@leonardcheshire.org.

And don’t forget to support the employment campaign by writing to the Chancellor – it takes less than five minutes.

By Leonard Cheshire

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