Publication - Consultation paper

Increasing public sector employment of disabled people: consultation

Published: 30 Apr 2018

This consultation sets out data collections and potential options for targets for the employment of disabled people in the public sector in Scotland.

28 page PDF

434.1 kB

28 page PDF

434.1 kB

Increasing public sector employment of disabled people: consultation
Chapter 1 – Public Sector Bodies in Scotland and data

28 page PDF

434.1 kB

Chapter 1 – Public Sector Bodies in Scotland and data

The public sector in Scotland employs around 600,000 people [6] . This includes local authorities, the further education sector, devolved civil service and the reserved public sector (such as HMRC and DWP), and together they employ the majority of people working in the public sector in Scotland. Other bodies include Executive Agencies, Non Ministerial Departments, Health Bodies, Public Corporations – which are accountable to Scottish Ministers – and Parliamentary Commissions and Ombudsmen – which are accountable to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body.

Public sector bodies vary considerably in size and function. Some employ around 20 people, while others employ thousands of staff. Some are very specialist (such as the Police, and Fire and Rescue Services) and some deliver a wider range of services (such as local authorities). Roughly 10% of the public sector is reserved, being either part of, or accountable to, the UK Government.

Around 77,000 disabled people were employed in the Scottish public sector in 2016 (aged 16-64). This is 11.7% of the total public sector workforce (Annual Population Survey ( APS) data, Jan-Dec 2016). In comparison, in the private sector in Scotland, 11.2% of the total workforce are disabled.

Public Sector Equality Duty ( PSED) and published data

All public sector bodies listed in Schedule 19 of the Equality Act 2010 (the 2010 Act) are subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty ( PSED), which is set out in section 149 of that Act.

The 2010 Act places a general duty on public authorities to have due regard to the need to: eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation prohibited by the Act; advance equality of opportunity; and foster good relations between persons who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. Although taking action on equal opportunities is largely reserved to the UK Government, Scottish Ministers can take certain steps, such as supplementing the general duty by placing specific duties on Scottish public authorities [7] and have done so under the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (the 2012 Regulations).

The specific duties require authorities to undertake a number of actions, including, for example, to: produce reports showing how equalities are being mainstreamed within the organisation; gather and use information about the recruitment, development and retention of employees with protected characteristics; and publish equal pay statement covering, amongst other matters, employees with a disability. A report on the Scottish Government's delivery of the specific duties was published in 2017. It covers mainstreaming, the setting of outcomes and employee information, and can be found at:

Enforcement of the 2012 Regulations is carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission ( EHRC). [8] The EHRC regulates the PSED in Scotland and is a reserved body.

Under the PSED, public sector bodies are required to collect data annually and to report every 2 years on how many disabled people they employ. Guidance for public sector bodies is available on the EHRC website. [9] The EHRC published a summary of the most recent published information late last year in their Measuring Up 7 report. [10]

While APS figures ( ONS, the Office of National Statistics) report a figure of 11.7% in 2016 for disabled employees in the public sector, many public bodies themselves report much lower figures. Scottish Government analysis of data published by a representative sample of public sector bodies showed that on average, less than 5% of staff were reported as disabled. However, the figures for individual bodies vary significantly, with some showing a disabled workforce of as low as 0.1%, and in others higher than 11%. EHRC suggested in its report that the apparently low reporting rate in relation to the PSED may be due to factors such as a lack of resources.

The low numbers reported may also be due to public bodies collating their information through staff surveys and recruitment processes, where staff are asked to self-declare any disability.

The overall response rates and sample sizes of staff surveys can also be much lower than that of official national statistics, such as the APS, and therefore less robust. Some public bodies' published PSED data reported very high rates of non-response to disability questions with one organisation reporting 70% of the workforce declining to respond. Reasons for not declaring a disability may include worries about negative reactions and misunderstandings in the workplace, as well as worries that it may impact on their career progression. Many people in employment - who would satisfy the definition of disabled as set out in the 2010 Act - also don't actually perceive themselves as disabled.

Improving self-declaration rates is a crucial first step to better understanding the challenge and what we should be doing to increase disabled employment in the public sector. A positive example of this is NHS Scotland. NHS Scotland recognises that existing published equalities data about their workforce significantly underestimates the proportion of the workforce living with a disability. Work is underway in NHS Scotland to tackle some of the underlying cultural issues that have prevented staff from voluntarily disclosing their disability status. NHS Board Equality and Diversity Leads, the Royal Colleges and the Business Disability Forum are working to support continuous improvement in staff experience.

Steps we could take might include asking all or some public sector bodies to implement measures which could improve the quality of their own staff disability data/ information, including measures to improve or increase:

  • response rates (where applicable);
  • methods (making sure people can provide answers in confidence);
  • scope (that is, collect more information, such as the nature of disability/impairment/long term health conditions);
  • increasing awareness among staff of why improved data is important;
  • learning from other public sector bodies and sharing good practice; and
  • delivering actions by a set date, for example in line with biennial PSED reporting.

Question 1 - 3:

1. In your view, or the view of your organisation, how could public sector bodies better support self-reporting (self-declaration) of disabilities for members of their workforce, to improve response rates and the quality of data collected?

2. What should be the time scale for implementing these measures?

3. What support, if any, and from where, would public sector bodies need to implement measures, such as improving data collection?

For all Questions please use additional space or paper if required.