Help and support at work
There is a lot of support for people with a disability when at work. Below is a list of different support that people with a disability can access to help them overcome any barriers they may face in the workplace.
The Equality Act 2010 requires an employer to make reasonable adjustments to enable a disabled person to work.
Reasonable adjustments may be to the recruitment process or to your workplace once you’ve started. Many reasonable adjustments cost little or nothing. But they can make a big difference to disabled employees.
Adjustments can change as your needs change. If there are reasonable adjustments which would allow you to carry on working or help you to overcome barriers, ask for them. If you’re not sure what these might be, Access to Work grants can pay for specialist assessments and recommended adjustments.
You can ask for reasonable adjustments even before you have started a new job. Your employer can only offer reasonable adjustments if they know you are disabled.
Who is responsible for reasonable adjustments
Good employers will have effective procedures to meet the needs of disabled employees. But your employer may need help understanding your specific requirements.
Asking for reasonable adjustments will enable you to do your job better. It will also help your employer by suggesting solutions to possible barriers and how to fund them.
You will need to apply for Access to Work. Your employer cannot do this for you.
Paying for assessments and adjustments: Access to Work grants
Access to Work grants can help pay for adjustments at work and for specialist assessments. These are Government grants but it's your responsibility to apply for them.
Access to Work is reviewed every 3 years. This allows you to apply for upgrades in your support technology.
If an employer knows about Access to Work and wants you to apply, this is a good sign. Some businesses prefer to pay for adjustments themselves. If they have their own disability specialist helping to assess what you need, this can be a good thing.
If your employer does not consider what kind of adjustments you need, or how Access to Work could pay for them, they could be discriminating against you.
Examples of reasonable adjustments
Employers and employees need to communicate openly, because the needs of all employees are different. This is true even if they have a similar impairment to another person.
Ask Access to Work for an assessment and if they can fund some of these adjustments:
- Adapted equipment, such as chairs, keyboards or voice recognition software
- Different responsibilities, maybe even a different job
- Transferring some tasks to a colleague
- Changes to the work environment, such as lowering desks, using natural daylight bulbs, modifying entrances
Changing working patterns and hours
Support and training
- Providing a reader, interpreter or personal assistant
- Training and support for people you work with
What is 'reasonable'?
For some jobs, simple changes are easy and can make a big difference. In some types of work, it’s harder to make changes. For example, you can do some jobs from home and others you cannot.
There is no set definition of ‘reasonable’. It's unique to each organisation, but your employer will have to think about:
- health and safety
Keep copies of everything that you send to your employer and make notes of your conversations. Include:
- dates and times
- what was said
- who said it
You will need these records if you have to attend an employment tribunal.
Reasonable adjustments are not favouritism
Providing disabled and non-disabled people with the same working conditions is not enough. Employers have to consider all requests that would give disabled people the tools they need to do their job. Employers must follow the law by providing reasonable adjustments.
If you ask for reasonable adjustments that your employer thinks could be ‘favouritism’, ask them why they feel that way. Help them to understand how the changes will make it easier for you to do your job well.
Talking to your employer
Your employer’s human resources (HR) policies and procedures might describe how they should be helping you. Even if the policies do not mention reasonable adjustments, they are still your legal right.
If you have to take time off, talk with your employer about coming back to work. This is a good time to talk about your impairment and adjustments. You do not need to wait for your employer to talk about this.
Other employers might be embarrassed or not know what to do. They will need you to take the lead. Approach your line manager or a member of the HR team to start the process.
Check your contract. Ask for HR policies and procedures, such as a sickness policy or guidance on employing disabled people. Share these with your manager.
It’s best to start with small conversations. Even if you're stressed, be ready to make your case and listen to any concerns your employer may have. Your employer may be trying their best to help. Be reasonable, but expect your employer to be reasonable too. If they're not, that's the right time to become assertive.
If you do not get a response, make a formal request in writing and consider raising a grievance.
Get support if you need it
Ask your employer if you can bring someone along to meetings. This could be a colleague, union representative, friend or family member. They should be responsible and reliable. They could be useful to help you process information and to take notes. This is especially important if your employer is unsupportive.
If the meeting is a formal grievance hearing, you have a right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative.
Occupational health assessments
You may have an occupational health assessment as part of the process of working out what adjustments you need. This is common.
Ask your employer for an assessor with experience of helping disabled people to overcome barriers to stay in work. This is called vocational rehabilitation. Not all occupational health assessors or therapists have experience in this area. You may need to search online or get a personal recommendation.
Sharing medical information
You must share medical information if your occupational health assessor asks your GP. Do not ignore the request. You only need to share information that will help your employer to understand your needs at work. You do not need to include anything else. For example, if your needs are linked to mobility, you do not need to share anything about your mental health.
If your employer is not doing enough
Negotiating with your employer can be challenging. Be assertive but calm. This will help you maintain a good working relationship while getting your employer to fulfil their responsibilities.
You may want to challenge a decision if you think that their decision does not follow their own policies and procedures.
Your employer could be discriminating against you if they refuse a request for a reasonable adjustment. If they do this, you should get help and advice on what to do next.
If you're not sure what your rights are, you can get legal advice from your:
- union, if you’re a member
- household insurance provider, if you have legal cover
Helplines can also provide information:
Regular reviews: are things working for you?
Your employer needs to check that you have what you need to do your job. There should be someone at your organisation responsible for this. Your manager or a member of HR will be able to tell you who this is.
Ask for your needs and adjustments to be part of your regular supervision. If you do not have regular reviews or supervisions, ask for them.
If your adjustments are not working, raise your concerns immediately. This will affect your performance. Having the right adjustments allows you to do your job effectively. People in HR sometimes call this a ‘capability issue’. Raise this within the organisation before resorting to unions or getting legal advice.
Remind your employer that they can renew adjustments through Access to Work every 3 years.
Access to work
If the employer making reasonable adjustments does not cover the help an employee needs at work, they may be able to get help from Access to Work.
To qualify, the employee will need to have a paid job, or be about to start or return to one.
The employee will be offered support based on their needs, which may include a grant to help cover the costs of practical support in the workplace.
For more information please see – “Get help from Access to Work - Easy Read”
What the employee will get
The employee will be offered support based on their needs. This may include a grant to help cover the costs of practical support in the workplace, or getting to and from work.
The grant can help pay for items or services they need, including:
- Adaptations to the equipment they use
- Special equipment or software
- British Sign Language interpreters and video relay service support, lip speakers or note takers
- Adaptations to your vehicle so you can get to work
- Taxi fares to work or a support worker if you cannot use public transport
- A support worker or job coach to help you in your workplace
- Disability awareness training for your colleagues
- The cost of moving your equipment if you change location or job
Access to Work can also help assess whether the employee’s needs can be met through reasonable adjustments by the employer.
How the Access to Work grant is paid
The employee or the employer will buy the items or services required.
Access to Work will pay the money back, up to the amount of the grant the employee has been offered and with any contributions (such as employer or NHS contributions) deducted.
What Access to Work will not cover
Employees will not get an Access to Work grant to pay for:
- Changes that the employer has to make (reasonable adjustments)
- Items that would normally be needed to do the job whether a person is disabled or not
- Support that the employer used to provide but has stopped
Access to Work helpline
Telephone: 0800 121 7479
Textphone: 0800 121 7579
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 121 7479
Monday to Friday, 8am to 7.30pm
Support with problems at work
SCOPE has produced these helpful resources for people to use if they are facing problems at work relating to their disability. You can view these resources by clicking here
Mental Health Support
Employees can get confidential support and advice from a trained healthcare professional from the Mental Health Support Service; they do not need to have a diagnosed condition to use the service.
Employees do not have to get Access to Work to get support from the Mental Health Support Service, but they must be eligible.
To get mental health support employees can apply for Access to Work. They can also contact one of the Mental Health Support Service providers directly. They are: