The impact of disability on employment and financial security following the outbreak of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic in the UK

J Public Health (Oxf). 2021 Sep 22;43(3):472-478. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdaa270.


Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may have a greater impact on people with disabilities than non-disabled people. Our aim was to compare the short-term impact of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and first lockdown on the employment and financial security of working age adults with and without disabilities in the UK.

Methods: Secondary analysis of data collected in Wave 9 and the special April, May and June COVID-19 monthly surveys of 'Understanding Society', the UK's main annual household panel study.

Results: During the first 3 months of the introduction of the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, respondents with disability were more likely than their peers to be working reduced hours and experience higher levels of financial stress. These differences were attenuated, but not eliminated, when estimates were adjusted to take account of pre-lockdown financial status.

Conclusions: Working age adults with disability were particularly disadvantaged by the financial impact of the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has stated the need for a disability-inclusive COVID-19 government response. The results of our analysis suggest that these pleas have either not been heeded, or if measures have been implemented, they have so far been ineffectual in the UK.

Keywords: adults; disabilities; socioeconomics factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Employment
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology