Study objective: To investigate whether the disparity in employment rates between people with a limiting long-term illness or disability and those without has decreased since the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act in the UK.
Design: National cross-sectional data on employment rates for people with and without a limiting long-term illness or disability were obtained from the General Household Survey for a twelve-year period (1990-2002; 10 surveys). Representative population samples were analysed. The sample size for the GHS over the study period ranged from 19,193 to 24,657 and the average response rate ranged from 72% to 82%.
Main outcome measure: The relative employment rates of men and women of working age (18-60/65 years). Compares people with a limiting long-term illness or disability ('disabled') with people with no limiting long-term illness or disability ('not disabled').
Results: Age standardised employment rates remained relatively stable from 1990 to 2001 for people defined as 'not disabled'. However, the employment rates of people defined as 'disabled' have decreased since 1990, and were at their lowest following the implementation of the employment aspects of the DDA in 1996 (1998-2002). In addition the gap between the employment rates of people defined as 'disabled' and 'not disabled' was most marked after the DDA between 1998-2002 (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: This appraisal of routine population data pre- and post- the Disability Discrimination Act indicates that the legislation may not have been effective in closing the employment gap that exists in the UK between people with a limiting long-term illness or disability and those without.