COVID-19 widens the equality gap for people with disability

This first of its kind research lays bare the impact of COVID-19 on people with disability, providing a unique view of how the pandemic has shifted the dial on workplace diversity and inclusion in Australia.

The powerful survey of more than 1,600 Australians living with disability, illness or injury conducted in May 2020 signals the extent to which PwD want to have their voice heard, as they navigate challenges such as job loss, job insecurity, reduced hours and mental health issues.

The research has uncovered some powerful insights:

  • More than half of people with disability in the workforce are in fragile employment, far higher than the general population

  • The vast majority of casual or seasonal people with disability employees were not eligible for Jobkeeper, leaving them more exposed to reduced hours or job loss
  • COVID-19 related reduction in hours has been a common experience among people with disability
  • Jobseeking activity doubled among casually employed people with disability and was 1.6 times higher among part-time people with disability employees during COVID-19
  • Desire for improved mental health and wellbeing is prompting jobseeking (35.5%) among people with disability, but employment is now less likely to provide this benefit (49%)
  • Employers have done a good job supporting people with disability during COVID-19, but overall, fewer report that their place of work is equitable and inclusive

COVID-19 has
amplified barriers
to job seeking

With the country’s headline
unemployment rate forecast to top
10 per cent, many Australians have
suffered reduced income or become
unemployed as a result of the crisis.

  • More than two in five (42.8%) employed people with disability experienced a reduction in hours
  • One in 12 (8.8%) unemployed people with disability lost their job as a direct result of COVID-19

COVID-19 related employment barriers have dwarfed traditional employment barriers, such as their disability, illness or injury.

People with disability seeking employment in the current environment report fewer job openings, and far greater competition for the roles on offer, while the number reporting more traditional disability related challenges has dropped sharply.

  • Almost a third think employers are less likely to employ people with disability due to COVID-19, and say this is stopping them securing their desired job
  • Almost a quarter are high risk and therefore afraid to go out
  • Almost one in 10 lack confidence jobseeking and interviewing online
  • The number reporting more traditional disability related challenges has dropped sharply from nearly all jobseekers to just eight in 10

More about Disability Employment Services