Improving employment opportunities for people with disability in Ireland

July 19, 2021

Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, in collaboration with Employers for Change, the Employer Disability Information Service providers, have today published a new policy paper that seeks to improve the employment opportunities for people with disability in Ireland. 

More than one in seven people in Ireland have a disability, but despite the period of sustained economic growth in Ireland over the last decade pre-Covid which saw unemployment rates fall to circa 5%, outcomes for people with disabilities have been slow to change. 

In Ireland, a person with a disability is just over half as likely to be employed as a non-disabled peer, with Ireland’s rate of employment amongst people with disabilities half the European average, and the gap between the employment rate of people with and without disabilities was also the second widest in the EU. Yet despite our stated ambition for greater employment for people with disabilities, for every €1 being spent on direct income supports for people with disabilities (things like disability allowance, invalidity pension and blind pension) the State is only spending 2.4c on employment supports (such as the employability service, partial capacity benefit and disability activation and employment supports).

Ibec Head of Social Policy, Dr. Kara McGann said: “Improving employment opportunities for people with disability is a critical element for enhancing the quality of life for individuals and their families, but there are also substantial gains for organisations and the broader economy. Further initiatives by government and business will be necessary to achieve a significant improvement in labour market outcomes for people with disabilities. Employers have a key role to play in taking steps to recruit and retain people with disabilities in their organisations and a whole of government approach will also be essential as the current siloed approach means issues can fall between the span of different areas and fail members of our existing and potential workforce from fulfilling their potential.”

Director of Employers for Change at The Open Doors Initiative, Christabelle Feeney said: “To achieve the ambition of improving the employment opportunities for those with a disability requires a sea change in attitudes and perceptions around disability and instead of “othering” people, making the necessary changes to ensure we have an equitable society for all. We need to take a collaborative approach across both the public and private sector to ensure that the fundamental changes are made and that the essential supports follow the individual.”

Recommendations detailed in the report include: 

Greater investment in evidence-based employment supports is warranted to benefit individuals with disability, the economy and society.
Reworking and updating the current grants system.
Amalgamate all the current disability supports into one grant.
Create an online application platform for all grants and supports.
Remove the onus from the employer to apply for grant support.
Provide €15m to extend personal assistant supports.
Increase the Subsidy Scheme for persons with a disability.
Remove the threshold of 21.5 hours work per week required to access the Subsidy Scheme for persons with a disability.


Ibec -Employers For Change - Disability and Employement Policy Paper July 2021 pdf | 542.8 kb