On January 12, 2024, Fraser of Allander published their report, in co-operation with Scottish Parliament information centre, which examines the causes of the growth in the disability employment rate in Scotland.

For the full report follow the link here to the Fraser of Allander website.

Fraser of Allander have also released a podcast with co-author Allison Catalano.  Listen to the podcast here.

The main findings of the report show:

  • The employment rate for disabled people in Scotland has increased by 9 percentage points since 2014. Non-disabled employment rates also increased by 3 percentage points during this time period. This increase in the employment rate has been larger in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK, although the employment rate remains lower.
  • The employment rate has largely increased due to an increase in disability prevalence (70% of the total change), meaning that this change is primarily due to working people becoming disabled. A small portion of the change (10%) was due to a change in working patterns among disabled people.
  • On average, Scotland’s disabled working age population grew by about 4.6% each year between 2014 and 2022, while Scotland’s total working age population grew by less than 0.1%.
  • Over half of the change in disability prevalence is due to an increase in reporting mental health-related disabilities and learning difficulties. In 2014, over a third of disabled people in Scotland reported musculoskeletal conditions as their main issue, and around a quarter reported a mental health condition or learning difficulty. These proportions have now switched.
  • Employment rates for all types of disability have increased since 2014. Musculoskeletal conditions – those affecting arms, legs, feet, neck, and back – had significant increases in employment rates, without significant increases in disability prevalence. By comparison, rates of reported mental illness grew substantially in both employment rates and in total prevalence, although the change in employment outpaced the change in population size.
  • Disabled people are disproportionately less likely to work in manufacturing; professional, scientific, and technical activities; or construction, and are more likely to work in education, retail, and health and social work

The findings indicate that, especially regarding mental health, more people are comfortable with disclosing a mental health disability to their employer. It also suggests people with a Musculoskeletal condition have also disclosed a disability at a higher rate. While Fraser of Allander does not give definitive reasons for this change, we believe the work of Apt, and its partners, to educate employers on disability awareness, including mental health and MSK conditions, is surely a contributory factor.

Given that over half the changes in disability prevalence was due to mental health related conditions, the report highlights the importance of mental health awareness training, including mental health first aid courses to equip employers with the knowledge and skills to support their colleagues.

The report also found that people that become disabled while in work are more likely to still be in work after one year. However, people out of work who become disabled are more likely to still be out of work after one year. This highlights the importance of working with employers to remove barriers for disabled people attempting to enter employment through interventions like the Digital recruitment review and training courses on Accessible Application forms and Website accessibility.

Fraser of Allander’s report concluded that despite falling faster than the rest of the U.K, the percentage of disabled adults out of work in Scotland, remains higher than the rest of the U.K at 49%, indicating that we as a nation are moving in the right direction but more can be done to ensure our progress is sustainable.