Telework After COVID: A “Silver Lining” for Workers with Disabilities?

Lisa A. Schur, Mason Ameri, & Douglas Kruse

Schur, L.A., Ameri, M. & Kruse, D. (2020)Telework After COVID: A “Silver Lining” for Workers with Disabilities?. Journal of Occupation Rehabilitation (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-020-09936-5


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Purpose The COVID pandemic was a severe blow to all workers, but it may ultimately have a silver lining for some workers with disabilities if it makes work from home easier and more acceptable. In addition, the pandemic is shaking up traditional workplace structures and causing employers to rethink how essential tasks can be done, which may broaden their views of workplace accommodations. We assess the potential for the pandemic to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Methods This article analyzes pre-COVID data on disability and home-based work from three representative data sources—the American Community Survey, American Time Use Survey, and Current Population Survey. We employ both cross-tabulations and regressions to predict work at home. Results We find that workers with disabilities are more likely than those without disabilities both to work primarily from home and to do any work at home. This is true for both employees and self-employed workers. Workers with disabilities face similar wage gaps in on-site and home-based work, indicating that while increased availability of home-based work may create more employment opportunities for workers with disabilities, it is unlikely to erase wage disparities. While workers with disabilities are currently more likely to be working primarily from home, only 34% are in occupations with high potential for home-based work, compared to 40% of workers without disabilities. Conclusions Workers with disabilities are currently more likely to work from home and many may benefit from expanded work-at-home opportunities, but the types of jobs they hold constrain this potential. Research is needed to see how home-based work evolves as the economy recovers from the pandemic over the next several years.

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