This guidance provides a summary of information for employers to help them recruit and support disabled people in work. It has links to other resources to enable employers to become more confident when attracting, recruiting and retaining disabled people.
1. Why recruit disabled people?
1.1 Definition of disability
1.2 The benefits of employing disabled people
Nearly 7 million people of working age in the UK are disabled or have a health condition. Historically there has been a significant gap between the proportion of disabled people employed compared with non-disabled people.
Encouraging applications from disabled people is good for business. It can help you to:
- increase the number of high quality applicants available
- create a workforce that reflects the diverse range of customers it serves and the community in which it is based
- bring additional skills to the business, such as the ability to use British Sign Language (BSL), which could result in large savings
The costs of making reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled employees are often low.
The benefits of retaining an experienced, skilled employee who has acquired an impairment are usually greater than recruiting and training new staff. It is also good for the individual.
We are working with employers to:
- remove barriers to work that disabled people face
- increase understanding of disability
- ensure disabled people have opportunities to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations
We have created some posters and example case studies for employers to use with their customers and networks to create a shared understanding of good practice. Find out more about the:
2. Help employing disabled people
2.1 Reasonable adjustments
You must make reasonable adjustments to support disabled job applicants and employees. This means ensuring disabled people can overcome any substantial disadvantages they may have doing their jobs and progressing in work (Equality Act 2010).
An individual can take you to an employment tribunal if they think you have not made reasonable adjustments.
Many reasonable adjustments involve little or no cost and could include:
- making changes to a disabled person’s working pattern
- providing training or mentoring
- making alterations to premises
- ensuring that information is provided in accessible formats
- modifying or acquiring equipment
- allowing extra time during selection ‘tests’
Find out more about what reasonable adjustments are and what you may need to do.
Access to Work can help towards the costs of making reasonable adjustments.
More information on reasonable adjustments, including examples, is in Chapter 6 of the Equality Act 2010 Code of Practice.
Case study: Reasonable adjustments
After a car accident, office-worker Stu developed neck and back problems. His employer carried out a workplace assessment and as a result provided Stu with:
- an adjustable chair with a built-in neck rest
- an inclined document reader
- a laptop so that he could work from home when his condition was worse
Following these adjustments, Stu was able to maintain his former levels of productivity, at a minimal cost to his employer, and manage his health condition.
2.2 Help with the extra costs disabled people face in work
You may be able to get help from Access to Work towards some costs where an individual requires support or adaptations. Find out more in the Employer’s guide to Access to Work.
Access to Work usually provides a grant to pay for the cost of the support. For example it can provide funds towards:
- special aids and equipment
- adaptations to equipment
- travel to and from work
- communication support at interview
- a wide variety of support workers
Access to Work also has a Mental Health Support Service. This can offer support to individuals with a mental health condition who are absent from work or finding work difficult.
Case study: Access to Work
Paul has congenital Spina Bifida and is a wheelchair user. Having secured a job as a training officer, he made an application to Access to Work as his existing wheelchair and the factory layout were not fit for purpose. Access to Work funded an assessment of the workplace and recommended:
- a lightweight wheelchair
- low-level door switches which enabled automatic opening
- IT software with a supporting headset
The recommended adaptations to the workplace were made. This help ensured that Paul has been able to bring his skills, knowledge and abilities to his new employer.
2.3 Supporting older workers
Older workers often have a vast amount of experience, knowledge and skill. By not retaining older workers you can face a loss of output and extra recruitment costs.
Our Age Positive page provides information on employing older workers, including case studies about specific business sectors.
2.4 Supporting disabled people to remain in work
You can get help from the Disability Employment Adviser and Work Psychology Services at Jobcentre Plus if an employee:
- becomes disabled
- has a change in their impairment or health condition that could mean they face barriers to remaining in work
For more information contact Jobcentre Plus.
Work Choice can help disabled people to find and keep a job. The type of support depends on the help they need. It can include:
- training and developing skills
- building confidence
- interview coaching
To find out more about Work Choice, contact Jobcentre Plus.
3. Disability law
It is against the law to treat someone less favourably than someone else because of a personal characteristic, such as being disabled. There are different kinds of discrimination.
Discrimination does not have to be direct to be illegal. You can discriminate indirectly with working conditions or rules that disadvantage a group of people more than another.
Discrimination can include, for example:
- not hiring someone because of their disability
- selecting a particular person for redundancy because of their disability
- paying someone less than another worker without good reason
3.2 Dealing with performance issues
All employees, whether or not they are disabled, have changes in their performance levels. These could be problems with attendance, behaviour or conduct.
Before starting action to deal poor performance, you must make reasonable adjustments to allow a disabled employee to improve their performance. If you don’t, they could take you to an employment tribunal.
4. How to recruit disabled people
4.1 Accessible job adverts
You must not discriminate against disabled people at any stage of the recruitment process.
You must make job adverts accessible to all those who can do the job, whether or not they are disabled.
When writing job adverts:
- use a font that is easy to read and large enough to read
- make sure that they don’t exclude any section of the community
- state clearly that you welcome applications from all sections of the community and that you have an equal opportunities policy
- include in your person specification only the skills and experience which are vital to the job
- do not set criteria which automatically exclude certain groups, for example stating that applicants must have a driving licence when there is no requirement for travel within the role
- provide the contact details of someone in your organisation who can provide further information and discuss any reasonable adjustments that the applicant may need
- offer alternative formats for applications, for example if the application is to be made online, provide a paper based form as an alternative
4.2 Conducting interviews
Under the Equality Act 2010 you must not ask about a job applicant’s health until you have offered them a job, except to:
- find out whether they need any reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process
- find out if they can carry out an essential function of the job
- monitor whether applicants are disabled (this must be anonymous)
Ask applicants if they need an adjustment to the interview process to allow them to be considered for the job. Make any adjustments if they are reasonable, for example:
- use premises that are fully accessible
- change lighting or room layout
- show a visually impaired applicant to their seat
- offer an alternative to a standard interview, for example a working interview or allow extra time
- allow applicants to complete a written test using a computer
When interviewing a disabled applicant, help them to perform to the best of their ability by:
- speaking directly to them rather than any support worker
- telling them about any flexible working patterns that you may be able to offer them
- making sure that you ask each applicant the same questions, whether or not they are disabled
4.3 ‘Two Ticks’ Symbol
Use the ‘Two Ticks’ symbol on adverts to show that you encourage applications from disabled people. We are currently reforming ‘Two Ticks’ to make it more up to date.
Find out about how to apply for the ‘Two Ticks’ symbol and the commitments you must make to display it.
5. Advice on specific conditions
5.1 Mental health conditions
Mental Health conditions cover a wide range of illnesses which can affect how people feel, think and behave. They can include:
- bipolar disorder
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 4 people experience a problem with their mental health every year. It’s likely you will at some point employ someone with a mental health condition. Being in work can improve someone’s mental health. With understanding and support from an employer, there is no reason that someone with a mental health condition cannot succeed in the workplace.
Adjustments for employees with a mental health condition include:
- offering flexible working patterns, including changes to start and finish times and adaptable break times
- changing their working environment, for example providing a quiet place to work
- working with them to create an action plan to help them manage their condition
- allowing them leave to attend appointments connected with their mental health
For more information and support visit:
5.2 Hearing impairment
Someone with a hearing impairment may have:
- partial or complete hearing loss
- had their impairment from birth or it may have increased gradually over time
- a temporary or permanent impairment
The proportion of people with a hearing impairment who are in work is below the national average. However, there are many people with a hearing impairment who are in work and even more who would like the opportunity to be in work.
Adjustments for an employee with a hearing impairment include:
- providing information in accessible formats
- seating an employee in a quiet area, away from distracting noises
- using adapted telephones with adjustable volumes and lights
For more information and support visit Action on Hearing Loss.
5.3 Visual impairments
There are almost 80,000 registered blind and partially sighted people of working age in the UK (not including conditions which can be corrected by glasses or contact lenses). The majority have some useful vision. They represent a huge pool of potential employees.
Advances in technology mean that blind and partially sighted people can now overcome many of the barriers to work that they faced in the past. With the right training, skills and experience a blind or partially sighted person can do just about any job. Just like any other worker, they will need the right tools to do the job, for example additional tools that reduce or eliminate the need for eyesight.
Adjustments for a blind or partially sighted employee include:
- offering additional training about visual impairments for other colleagues
- making alterations to the working environment
- supplying documents in audio or Braille formats
- carrying out a risk assessment of the workplace
- arranging a tour of the workplace
- providing software or technology that magnifies onscreen text and images or converts text to sound
For more information and support visit the RNIB website.
5.4 Physical impairments
A physical impairment is one which limits a person’s ability to do physical activity such as walking. These impairments may be as a result of:
- cerebral palsy
- muscular dystrophy
- multiple sclerosis
Some physical impairments may not be visible such as epilepsy or respiratory disorders.
Many people with physical impairments have mobility aids to assist them. You may only need to take a few simple steps to ensure an employee with a physical impairment can fulfil their potential at work.
Adjustments for a physically impaired employee include:
- providing assistive computer equipment such as modifications to hardware or voice activated software
- agreeing an emergency evacuation procedure with them if they require assistance
- making sure that the layout of the working environment is accessible and free from obstructions
5.5 Hidden impairments
Hidden impairments are conditions that are not apparent to others. They are thought to affect 10% to 15% of the population. They include:
- autistic spectrum conditions (ASCs)
- learning disabilities
Autistic spectrum conditions (ASCs)
In the UK, half a million adults are thought to have an ASC. They may have difficulties with:
- understanding the feelings of others
- meeting new people
People with an ASC may also have high levels of accuracy, attention to detail and a good memory for figures.
Adjustments for an employee with an ASC include:
- maintaining a structured working environment and routine
- avoiding language which is hypothetical or abstract
- avoiding making statements which could be taken literally
For more information and support visit The National Autistic Society website.
About 10% of the UK population are thought to be affected by dyslexia. It affects many more men than women. People with dyslexia have difficulties with reading, writing and spelling. They may struggle with tasks such as:
- writing or structuring documents
- remembering instructions
- note taking
Potential strengths of people with dyslexia include creative and innovative thinking and good communication skills.
Adjustments for an employee with dyslexia include:
- providing text-to-speech or speech-to-text software
- allowing meetings to be recorded
- giving instructions verbally
- providing written information on coloured paper
For more information and support visit the Dyslexia Action website.
It is estimated that up to 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability. They may have difficulties learning new skills and coping independently with everyday tasks.
Many people with a learning disability are in work and with right support can be hard-working and reliable employees.
Adjustments for an employee with a learning disability include:
- altering the recruitment process to allow work trials instead of formal interviews
- using supported employment providers to offer in work support to help learn a role
- providing information in accessible formats
For more information and support visit the Mencap website.
6. Guidance from other organisations
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) promotes and monitors human rights. It protects, enforces and promotes equality across 9 areas: age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.
The Business Disability Forum (BDF) is an employer organisation that offers information, support and advice on disability as it affects business. It can help employers to make sure that their online recruitment tools and processes are fully accessible for disabled people.
Clear Kit is an online, free toolkit, by The Clear Company. They help recruiters, employers and education providers understand what they need to do when attracting, recruiting and retaining disabled people.
Clear Talents can help organisations identify and manage reasonable adjustments for job applicants, employees and students. It is free to use for applicants.
The British Association for Supported Employment (BASE) is the national trade association involved in securing employment for disabled people. The website offers guidance for employers on disability and work. BASE members work closely with disabled jobseekers and employers to help find sustainable work for the disabled person.
Health and Wellbeing guidance for Managers has a range of links to help for employers to support employees with work-related health issues.
The Disability Action Alliance brings together disabled people’s organisations with other organisations to work in partnership to change the lives of disabled people.
The big I.D.E.A. (Inclusion, Diversity, Equality, Accessibility) is a place for the diversity industry, employers, and jobseekers to communicate. The site brings together the best of what the industry has to offer with a broad range of views from employers, jobseekers, and diversity policy makers.
The Mental Health Foundation is a leading mental health charity for research, policy and improving services. It offers a range of training and courses for individuals and employers.
Remploy Employment Services provides wide ranging support to help employers to recruit and retain talented and motivated disabled people.
The Uncovering Hidden Impairment Toolkitfrom HING (the Hidden Impairment National Group) offers hints and tips on how employers can better support people with hidden impairments. It is free of charge to employers who make minimal commitments to implement the toolkit.
The Do It Profiler has resources for employers to help them to understand specific learning disabilities and their relevance to the workplace.
Richard Shakespeare is an independent Disability Consultant who provides advice, support and training to employers on all aspects of disability awareness. Richard and his team can provide both face to face training and online courses in subjects such as disability awareness, mental health and equality and diversity.