Claims that the labour market is "rigged" have followed the findings that two in five disabled people of working age in Oxfordshire are not in employment.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions suggest there were around 78,000 disabled people aged 16 to 64 in Oxfordshire as of June – 40 per cent of whom were not in work.

This compares to 18 per cent among those without disabilities.

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Director of strategy at disability equality charity Scope, James Taylor, said: "Our labour market is rigged against disabled people.

"Businesses are letting talented disabled people slip through their fingers by not supporting disabled employees.

"Poor attitudes, inflexible working practices, delays to Access to Work, and low sick pay rates all make it harder for disabled people to stay and thrive in work.

"Disabled people are losing out on work unfairly and being pushed into a broken benefits system that includes sanctions."

Rates vary significantly across the UK with 45 per cent of disabled people in employment in the North East, compared to 60 per cent in the East of England and 59 per cent in the South East.

Helping people with long-term sickness back into work was a stated aim of this year's Spring Budget.

Figures show 246,000 people aged 16 to 64 in Oxfordshire were classed as 'economically inactive' due to long-term sickness.

Fazilet Hadi, head of policy at Disability Rights UK, said: "The UK Government previously had a commitment to halve the gap, but stepped away from this ambitious target.

"There is a lot the government can do to support disabled people into work and to stop disabled workers falling out of the labour market."

She urged support for the Disability Employment Charter, which calls on the government to introduce new measures to support disabled workers.

These include requiring companies to report the difference in pay between disabled and non-disabled staff, and improve workplace adjustments for those who need them.

Across the UK there were 9.6 million disabled people – a rise of 1.9 million on June 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

The gap in employment rates between the disabled and non-disabled population has remained steady, but is currently slightly smaller than in 2013-14, when local figures were first available.

At this point, the same figures show 48 per cent of around 56,000 disabled people in Oxfordshire were out of work.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: "We’re committed to closing the disability employment gap, and we've seen 2.2 million more disabled people in work since 2013.

"Our next generation of welfare reforms will see an extra £2 billion break down barriers to work for those with disabilities and health conditions, including joined-up health and employment support and extra work coach time, so everyone can fulfil their potential."