Government-funded disability support in the workplace – Everything you need to know
By: Philippa Harrington, On: 12 October 2020
The UK Government has made a commitment to improving access to work for anyone with a disability. Regardless of whether that disability relates to a long-term condition, injury, illness or their age.
To help support this aim, funding has been made available to both individuals and employers, to provide greater inclusion in the workplace.
This guide will show the different ways this support works for individuals and how you can apply for it.
Equality Act and Disability
It is important to note that many of the workplace rights of disabled people are covered by the Equality Act 2010.
This makes it against the law for employers to discriminate against someone with a disability. This includes with regard to application forms, interviews, tests for aptitude or proficiency, job contracts and terms (including pay), access to promotions, transfers and training and discipline, dismissal or redundancy.
Within this legislation, employers are permitted to make limited enquiries about your health and disability level. This must focus on such issues as help you may need to take part in initial assessment tasks, interviews and monitoring, and where it relates to their diversity and inclusion targets or potential security issues.
It is recommended that you have an open discussion with an employer regarding your disability. They can then meet their legal obligation to help you to enjoy equality of access to employment. That includes making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to a workplace to help accommodate your disability.
What are reasonable adjustments to a workplace?
This term covers the changes employers should make to ensure that someone with a disability is not disadvantaged in the workplace.
Reasonable adjustments could include, for example, offering you a different pattern of holidays or working hours to make it possible for you to complete your tasks or fulfil medical needs. Or, providing you with additional training and mentorship to enable you to carry out work tasks.
It could also include providing you with technical aids such as special keyboards or communications equipment.
The adjustments could also relate to a mental disability. For example, someone with anxiety could be excused from hot-desking and supplied with their own workstation.
Some reasonable adjustments are more substantial, such as providing wheelchair ramps and visual alarms for people with hearing loss.
Keep in mind that these adjustments don’t just relate to your work activities. They also cover your ability to use toilets and have access to break areas and any leisure activities that your peers enjoy in the workplace.
There is more information on the government website, click here.
The Access to Work scheme
You could be entitled to help under the Access to Work grant scheme. This is designed to make it possible for people with disabilities to fulfil paid employment opportunities.
It could cover, for example, specialist equipment that helps you to do daily tasks more easily. Or, grants to cover taxis, if for some reason you can’t use public transport. This was crucial during the COVID-19 restrictions when Access to Work assistance was extended to also include remote working services such as a video interpretation help.
Access to Work support is available if you are aged over 16 and live and work in England, Scotland or Wales. It covers any paid job, including part-time and temporary positions.
When does the available support start?
Government help is available even before you begin employment. You are entitled to apply for communications support when you attend job interviews.
For example, this could be a grant to fund a British Sign Language interpreter. It could also pay for a communication support worker to help you overcome a physical or mental health condition, or learning difficulty, during your interview.
You would need to check your eligibility on the Government website and then apply for this support before the interview takes place. The funding (which you don’t have to pay back) is released after the interview has happened.
Finding empathetic employers
For some people with a disability, confidence to apply for jobs comes from knowing that employers do more than comply with legislation. For this reason, the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions encourages inclusive employers to join the Disability Confident Scheme.
Over 18,000 organisations in the UK have registered to date, and this entitles them to display a Disability Confident symbol on job ads. It gives candidates and customers an indication which companies are playing a role in changing attitudes, behaviours and cultures to better support disabled people in the workplace.