Failing to ask the correct questions

“Why are these people so willing to be treated as unequal?”

That is the question that Philip Davies should have asked when a group of disabled people allegedly told him they’d be willing to take a job that paid them a lower wage than able bodied people. To any logical person the fact that people were so desperate for a job, for independence, that they would willing be treated as differently than others, is a clear signal that something is very, very wrong with the situation they’re in.

However, for Davies, this was an indication that it might be a good idea to suggest that mentally ill people, and those who are disabled and are unable to find employment, should be offered a lower wage by employers who could then see that the mentally ill person or the disabled person could do the job just as well as anyone else, and then offer them a pay rise to take them up to minimum wage, or an equal pay rate as their colleagues.

There’s just one flaw here. Such an idea not acceptable and it never will be. Ever.

The focus should be on why people are so desperate they’d willingly suggest being treated unequally, and the answer is that for some it is really difficult to find work, and with no work comes a declining sense of worth and independence and, to be frank, that sucks.

I am disabled, and when I tell people that they don’t believe me because my disability is not visible. I have about 55% hearing ability due to an internal ear injury. I work full time and I earn a decent enough wage and I work hard at what I do. However, not so long ago I was unemployed and this afternoon when I read what Davies had said, I was reminded of a time when I would spend most of my day looking for a job, and I had a terrible feeling that if Davies ludicrous plan for the disabled to be paid less came to be, I may have been forced into a job where I was treated as unequal until I could somehow prove that I was just as able as anyone else.

There are many people who are much worse off than I am who probably have many more expenses as a result of their illness or condition who cannot afford to accept less than minimum wage who would have no choice under such a scheme. This is in no way fair, it is verging on abusive.

Davies told The commons:

“Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, can’t be as productive in their work as somebody who hasn’t got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that given that the employer was going to have to pay them both the same they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk, and that was doing those people a huge disservice.”

I find the idea that an MP would suggest punishing the disadvantaged even more, rather than seeking out a solution that would help both the disadvantaged and, say, the employer who is reluctant to employ someone who may or may not be less productive as a result of their physical or mental disability, very worrying indeed.

This isn’t about left wing hysteria as Davies so arrogantly suggested via his twitter account, it’s about someone who should know how to ask the right questions failing to do so in the most horrendous manner, and failing so many people who may have given him the title of MP by doing so.

Shame on you, Philip Davies.

About Hayley Stevens 434 Articles
Hayley is a ghost geek and started to blog in 2007. She uses scientific scepticism to investigate weird stuff and writes about it here while also speaking publicly about how to hunt ghosts as a skeptic.

11 Comments on Failing to ask the correct questions

  1. It’s also economically illiterate. Creating an economy in which people underbid one another for jobs leads to a situation in which employers settle for poor quality work, desperate people are exploited, professionals are undermined and taxpayers end up paying for benefits for people who are working full time but still cannot make ends meet. In effect, the public sector is left to subsidise the private sector.

    People forget that the minimum wage isn’t just about being nice to people; it’s an eonomic tool. And Mr Davies is a tool of another sort.

  2. Disgusting.

    To get round the problem of your disability not being obvious (I certainly never noticed) and so that prospective employers can be made aware, perhaps Davis thinks you should wear an armband…

    • After all, it’s shameful not to let your employers know they have the right to bully you into working for less than minimum wage

      As a bonus to this scheme, disabled people are often so beat down by all the prejudice and idiocy said about them, which Davis has kindly assisted with, that employers will find them fairly easy to bully.

      Okay, sarcasm off. There’s two points I want to discuss: 1. lowering the minimum wage for the disabled – Davis’ scheme, and 2. allowing anyone to opt out at will, the original awful proposal, which Davis is almost providing a smokescreen for here.

      So. Lowering the minimum wage for the disabled. When I was younger, I once worked a test day at a job, as part of trying to get employed. I didn’t get the job, but I was paid for what I did. Money I really needed at the time.

      I was asked my age, then paid the under-living-wage under-25 rate. They hadn’t asked my age before I started working, they were fully capable and willing to pay the adult rate, but decided to rip me off – because they could.

      If disabled get a lower minimum wage, it’s likely to only be opt-in on paper. People in a desperate situation may agree to anything – and they’re unlikely to later have the right to insist that the minimum wage be held to after all.

      However, I think Davis’ remarks, as awful as they were, are obscuring something.

      They were said in the context of Christopher Chope putting forwards a bill to let everyone opt out of the minimum wage.


      And if one person opts out, that means noone gets to opt in. An opt-outable minimum wage is no longer a minimum wage. People will be just handed employment contracts with the opt-out in it, and if they don’t sign, no job.

      So, yes, Davis deserves shame. But Christopher Chope deserves some too, and he’s getting off scot-free.

  3. I’m 49 years old, have Asperger’s syndrome and have never had a job.

    I need to be able to offer an employer something so that he will at least just consider giving me a job; and I reckon that his being able to pay me less than statutory minimum wage might just do it.

    I doubt I would be any worse off than actually being paid a proper wage because of the complex interactions between the various benefits I receive and the amount of money I have to pay to social services for my care. In effect a wages subsidy would be in operation.

    I desperately want to work, and need to work, so that I can fully contribute to, and participate in, society; and strive to become the best person I’m capable of becoming -and the minimum wage legislation is hindering me in my quest.

    • Respectfully, no, the minimum wage legislation isn’t the issue here. There are many ways to help you that don’t involve that. For example, a simple tweak to the benefits system where the government could offer to subsidise long-term unemployed people’s pay for, say, 6 months would give employers the same benefit, cost the government less than you NOT working, and not treat you as a second class citizen.

      Further, remember that the comment were made in defense of a bill that wasn’t about disabled people being able to opt out, but EVERYONE being able to opt out. You would be no better off, as you’d have nothing to offer that anyone else couldn’t have.

    • I appreciate your plight; I’ve faced similar issues for several years due to crippling anxiety. But there are ways forwards that don’t involve always marking people as second-class.

      If one group is singled out as being intrinsically worth less, that’s not going to go away after you get on the job ladder.

  4. I work with people challenged with disabilities eveyday in my job (and no, that is not some namby-pamby left wing PC term – they are people first, their disability is a condition that they have secondarily, and it presents a challenge that they have to struggle with on a daily basis. And like I said, they are people first). I read this twit’s speech, and know what? I was going to try and come up with some rebuttal but I’m too damn angry to type anymore.

  5. I have little doubt that we will be seeing the gradual removal of the national minimum wage by this government. Tories are for business, big business, and some business have been saying that the NMW is killing their competitiveness..

    The government can’t discriminate against able bodied people by just allowing disabled people the right to a reduced wage, what if an able bodied person wanted to barter for a lower wage? Wouldn’t the disabled person be back to square one.

    Unscrupulous businesses would possibly end up only taking on cheaper labour for the more easy tasks, meaning that less posts are available for able bodied people. Also, I suggest, that there could be a lowering of wages in an organisation, as people feel their jobs are threatened by lower paid staff.

    The NMW is a joke anyway, hardly anyone can live on it without benefit or tax credits, meaning that tax payers are subsidising lower wages. Even more people would be claiming benefit with a removal of the NMW.

    All that said, I can kind of perhaps understand a wage reduction incentive when wages are HIGHER than the NMW, for a training or probationary period, for example. The NMW should be just that, what point is there in a NMW if some people and businesses can flout it?

    If the government really gave a fuck about disabled people it would be creating and investing in more organisations like Remploy but as anyone with a braincell knows this government is about profitability and profitable business.

    This government id overseeing the removal of thousands of people into the employment market from Incapacity Benefit, they have nothing but contempt for the sick people of this country. Perhaps they should just start giving out pyjamas with a big letter ‘D’ for disabled and make it compulsory for the sick people to wear them. Then start opening up ‘work camps’ with slogans such as “Arbeit macht frei”….work sets you free….but wait wasn’t that another dictatorship’s policy….didn’t the Nazis also target the disabled?

    • …this government is about profitability and profitable business.


      There is, of course, a balance to be struck because, in our current system, businesses that are not profitable will go bust and will not employ people. Businesses need to be able to profit, but the question is what state intervention does society require to stop exploitation? We currently have the NMW, and all sorts of employment rights that have generally been hard won and I don’t think we should be eroding any of them.

      When employing anyone, a company is taking a risk that that person is up to the job. If they offer someone a position, they must have a reasonable expectation that they have assessed the person against the requirements for that job and their judgement is that the person stands a good chance of being able to do it. Not guaranteed, of course, but that they are a good match for the job. That applies regardless of any disability (obvious or otherwise). But that’s why most companies have probation periods: if it doesn’t work out (ie the company’s gamble didn’t pay off), they can be sacked with the minimum of fuss and I can see there is a need for that.

      However, making the assumption that a disabled person is so much less likely to be able to the job asked of them that the company has to ‘protect’ itself by paying the disabled person less in the first place, is unacceptable in the 21st century, but it also reflects badly on the company’s recruitment process: it was incapable of selecting someone that had a reasonable chance of doing the job.

      So, ultimately, I see all this as a way of allowing companies to apparently buffer themselves for choosing someone not up to the job. I say apparently, because I doubt the amount saved by a company by paying someone less than the minimum wage for a probationary period is likely to be minuscule in the scheme of things. However, I doubt it will be minuscule to the employee because it is likely to be a significant proportion of the NMW.

      Of course, all this applies to all potential employees, disabled or not (which I think is what Davies meant).

      Perhaps there is an opening here for an entrepreneurial insurance company: insurance against a company employing a person who later turns out to be not up to the job?

  6. A long time ago the working time directive was introduced. you could choose to waive the 48hr a week limit. So on it’s introduction my employer gave us all the forms to fill in. No explanations no direct threats. Just implied that we all had to sign this.

    So give people an option to opt out and employers will use that against you and all of a sudden there is no minimum wage at all.

    Stupidest idea I’ve heard in a long time.

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