Social Security Scotland (Disability Pay Gap)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Mark Griffin Mark Griffin Labour

1. To ask the Scottish Government for what reason there is a median disability pay gap of 26 per cent in Social Security Scotland. (S5O-03421)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

Social Security Scotland was established on 1 September 2018 and the majority of its workforce have been recruited since that date. The data that was used to determine the median disability gap is from December 2018 and is based on voluntary self-declaration. At that time, the disability status of 62.5 per cent of the agency’s rapidly growing workforce was unknown.

The most recent staff survey highlighted that 22 per cent of employees in Social Security Scotland who have completed the survey identify as having a long-standing physical or mental health condition, illness, impairment or disability.

I am proud that we have sought to recruit people to Social Security Scotland who are reflective of the society in which we live.

Photo of Mark Griffin Mark Griffin Labour

The cabinet secretary knows that I have taken a keen interest in whether the new agency employs, and is representative of, the disabled people whom it will be supporting with billions of pounds of assistance.

When I previously raised concerns about the agency’s struggle to recruit disabled people, a member of Social Security Scotland’s executive advisory body told me that I had a

“focus almost entirely upon the external attributes”,

which is

“a judgmental approach”,

and they accused me of

“misinformation and casting such deep aspersions publicly”.

I trust that the cabinet secretary will agree that attempts by a member of the executive advisory body to suppress legitimate and substantiated concerns about the recruitment of disabled people and, by extension, about equal pay and promotion are simply unacceptable. Will she today commit to introduce a plan to close the pay gap at the agency and get more disabled people into positions of leadership at all levels in the organisation, so that it represents the disabled people whom it will serve?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I thank Mark Griffin for his question, as I know that it is on an issue that he is particularly interested in. I hope that he listened to my original answer, in which I talked about the fact that the staff survey highlighted that 22 per cent of the employees who completed it have a long-standing physical or mental health condition, which means that they are representative of the communities that we serve.

The agency has already made great efforts in recruitment to ensure that we are employing people who have a disability. For example, in Dundee, we are working with Remploy, and in Glasgow, we have recently had taster sessions with the Glasgow Disability Alliance. All the taster sessions were exceptionally successful. In addition, Inclusion Scotland is offering placements for disabled candidates.

We are working internally to ensure that there is great deal of focus on encouraging people who came into Social Security Scotland on entry-level jobs, which are the vast majority of jobs in the agency, to improve their prospects of internal promotion. I would be more than happy to share with Mark Griffin the information about what is already in place, because I appreciate that he is very interested in the subject.

I am proud of what the agency has delivered and what it will continue to deliver in this area.

Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

Will the cabinet secretary confirm, for the avoidance of doubt, that disabled staff at the agency do not earn less than other people who are doing the same job? Will she also outline how the Scottish Government is working with disabled people’s organisations to ensure that Social Security Scotland is seen as an attractive and inclusive place for disabled people to work and, importantly, that we are not missing out on their talent and skills?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I can confirm that staff working for Social Security Scotland are employed under the Scottish Government’s main terms and conditions, which includes standardised pay scales. Therefore, we are very confident that we provide equal pay for equal work. In my answer to Mark Griffin, I mentioned some of the work that we are doing with disabled organisations to attract diverse talent. The agency is also a disability confident employer and we take part in a guaranteed interview scheme for people with disabilities, reducing barriers to employment.

I hope that that gives the member and Parliament some reassurance about the great amount of work that the agency is undertaking in this important area.