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employment with disabilities

Getting into work can often be challenging when you have a disability. Still, there are plenty of opportunities out there, and knowing what support is available can be a massive help. It’s important to remember that all employers have a duty to remove any barriers you face because of your disability.

If you’re looking to get back into work or grow your career, we’ve compiled a full guide to help you – starting from writing a CV right up until you start at your new place of employment.

Table of contents:

Writing a CV

The first step is to write your CV. Having a strong CV can be the difference between not hearing back from an employer and getting an interview. It’s definitely worth spending a good amount of time making sure you’ve got a CV that stands out.

Be honest when you’re creating your CV. You don’t necessarily have to mention if you have a disability, but you shouldn’t make things up. In most cases, it is probably not necessary to mention this within your CV, but it could briefly be mentioned in your cover letter.

It is not a legal requirement, so if you can do the job, you shouldn’t need to mention your disability at this stage. If you do decide to include it, make sure you stay positive. For example, you could use it to demonstrate how you have adapted to change or overcome adversity.

Some employers may actively be seeking disabled applicants for the role, in which case you may wish to write about your disability in your CV or on your application.

Job hunting

Once you’ve written your CV, it’s time to start looking for work.

Did you know? 19% of working age adults are disabled.

Sites like Evenbreak, Remploy and EmployAbility, as well as charities such as Enham Trust and Scope, specialise in helping disabled people get into work – so they should definitely be your first port of call.

You can also visit the gov.uk website, or your local Jobcentre, who can help you find disability-friendly employers in your area and help you build up skills for the workplace.

If you’re still struggling or feel like you need a bit more guidance on where to look, you should speak to a Disability Employment Adviser. They are employed by the government to advise disabled people on how to look for jobs and where to look, as well as help give guidance on any training and new skills that are available.

There are also several government schemes and programmes that are available to help get disabled people into work. It is worth checking out some of these, such as Access to Work and Intensive Personalised Employment Support.

The latter could give you up to 15 months of one-to-one support and training to help you into work, and another six months of support once you find employment.

Job applications

When applying for a job, it’s ok to ask for the application in another format if it will help you. For example, you may require it in large print, Braille or in an electronic format.

You can also ask to submit it in an alternative format too. This should be considered a reasonable adjustment for the employer to make.

What to look for in an employer

When searching for a potential employer, there are some things to look out for. While almost all employers in the UK may claim to be an ‘equal opportunities employer’, some will go much further than others.

For example, do they have an accreditation from Disability Confident? There are three levels to this government scheme: ‘ committed’ and ‘employer’ being self-assessed, and ‘leader’ being the top, requiring external assessment. You’ll be guaranteed an interview with any of these employers if you meet the minimum job requirements (and disclose your disability too).

It can help to quickly identify employers and companies who are actively committed to equality in the workplace. You can also search through vacancies on the DWP website, filtered by ‘Disability Confident’.

Other positive indicators could include disability and inclusion-related awards, like the RIDI Awards or Inclusive Employer Awards, or they could be a member of the Business Disability Forum. The BDF are a not-for-profit organisation that “work through and with business to create a disability-smart world”.

Company culture

You can also search the internet for reviews from current and former employees, to see if there is anything relevant to you.

Try checking out the company website too, where you should find their equality, diversity and inclusion policies, and details about internal disability networks should they have any. This may give a good indication of the type of company culture they foster or are working towards.

Should I disclose my disability?

Many people, and particularly those with non-visible disabilities, may be anxious about disclosing them to employers. Firstly, it’s important to remember – at every stage of the job-hunting process, it is completely up to you if, when and how you decide to disclose your disability to an employer.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits employers from discriminating against anyone because of their disability. This applies to everything from your job application, to interviews, pay, and promotions, as well as retirement and being let go.

Additionally, all UK employers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace to ensure those with disabilities are not substantially disadvantaged.

Did you know? –In 2017, the UK government set a target to have 1 million more disabled people in work by 2027.

With that in mind, there can be some benefits to disclosing your disability. If you decide not to, then if you do face any kind of discrimination, it could be much harder to prove that this was due to your disability, meaning you are less likely to receive any legal protection.

Some key instances when it might be suitable to reference your disability in the application process include:

  • If you require any adjustments during the recruitment process (e.g. any special equipment for the interview or online application)
  • If your disability gives you an advantage over other candidates (e.g. some employers will actively pursue candidates on the Autistic Spectrum)
  • If the employer is offering guaranteed interviews to disabled applicants that meet their criteria

The interview stage

Interviews can be nerve-wracking for everyone, but it can help to know your rights and what to expect. As mentioned above, if you need any adjustments for the interview, then you will need to disclose your disability beforehand.

You should also decide prior to the interview if you are going to refer to your disability in the interview itself, so you can feel fully prepared for what you are going to say and how you will bring it up.

If you are able to, contact the employer before the interview to find out what the interview will involve, and what is expected of you, so you know what adjustments would need to be made.

The more notice you give them, the more assistance they are likely to be able to give you.

Reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments could include, but are not limited to:

  • An accessible parking space
  • Any specialist reading equipment or software
  • A sign language interpreter
  • Extra time for assessments
  • Lighting adjustments
  • Change of location

You shouldn’t assume that they know anything about disability, so be sure to tell them in what way you are disabled and how it will affect your interview, and exactly what you will need on the day. Send this in an email so it’s easy to forward on, and you have written evidence of it.

If you haven’t asked for any adjustments, then, again, there’s no requirement for you to mention your disability in an interview. If you do decide to though, it can start up a conversation about any support you may need, or how the employer could support others with disabilities. So it could end up benefiting others, even if you don’t end up taking the job.

Under the Equality Act 2010, your interviewer is not allowed to ask you about your health, unless it’s concerning your ability to do the key parts of the role you are applying for, or what adjustments may need to be made.

It is ok to challenge questions you feel are inappropriate, or to politely decline to answer. You can contact their HR department after the interview if you do believe any illegal or inappropriate questions or comments were asked or made.

Find out more about the interview process and get some great tips on Scope’s website.

Once you’ve started

There are things that all employers should do, as outlined in the Equality Act 2010. If you’re facing barriers as a result of your disability, all employers must make reasonable adjustments, such as:

  • Changing the way things are done in the workplace, e.g. adapting your duties to be more accommodating, or allowing for extra rest breaks
  • Making physical changes to the office premises, e.g. installing a wheelchair ramp
  • Changing or providing equipment, e.g. adapted chairs, desks or keyboards
  • Providing any support that is needed, e.g. specific help for work tasks

However, it is important to remember that an employer can only be required to make these changes if they know you have a disability.

Therefore, it would be worth approaching your manager or employer to inform them of the situation if you believe any reasonable adjustments will enable you to do the job better.

Access to Work

While discussing any workplace adjustments you may require with your employer, you should definitely mention Access to Work.

This is a government grant scheme that can help your employer when it comes to properly assessing your needs, and providing the funding to support you. It will also be reassuring to them to know that they don’t have to sort this all by themselves with no help.

As well as to assist your employer, Access to Work aims to help support you get or stay in work if you have a physical or mental health condition or disability. You can apply for a grant to pay for practical support at work, or get advice on managing your mental health at work.

If seeking mental health guidance, you do not need to be diagnosed with a condition. You can get advice from a mental health specialist, who could help you learn coping mechanisms, provide a support plan, or access therapy, for example.

They can also work with your employer to make adjustments at work that could help your mental health.

Did you know? –It is estimated that 11.6% of all sickness absence days in the UK in 2020 were attributed to mental health conditions such as stress, depression and anxiety.

For this you will need to contact one of the government-funded mental health services, Remploy or Able Futures. They can help with stress, depression, anxiety or other mental health issues that may be affecting your work.

You could be entitled to Access to Work no matter how much you earn or have in savings, and at the same time as most other government benefits. As long as you are in permanent or temporary work and have a physical or mental health condition or disability that means you need support to do your job or get to and from work.

Working from home all or part of the time is not an issue either. You are still able to get help through the Access to Work scheme.

After you apply for the grant, you will be contacted by someone at Access to Work to discuss your application. They may then arrange an assessment, and after that you’ll receive a letter with a decision and an explanation of what your grant will be and how it should be used.

What type of work would be suitable for people with disabilities?

It is imperative to remember that disability covers an extensive range of physical and mental impairments, that can vary greatly from person to person. There is no one size fits all with jobs, and while it would be impossible to say that any type of job would suit a particular person or group of people, some areas that may be of greater interest or suitability for those with disabilities.

There are some cases where employers can differentiate those with disabilities in job applications. For example, it would not be illegal discrimination if an employer hiring an HGV driver turned down an application from somebody who cannot drive due to their disability.

However, if you are capable of doing the core responsibilities of the job, then there is nothing stopping you from applying for a role in any sector or environment. Here are just a few examples of roles you could consider:

  • For those with physical disabilities, a desk job may be suitable, as it can easily be adapted, and it doesn’t usually involve lots of movement. This could include anything from HR to accounting, project management to web development.
  • Somebody with hearing impairments could consider a role in social media management, engineering, or even cosmetology. You could also think about working with children who have hearing impairments.
  • Social work, psychology or radio journalism could be options for those who are visually impaired.
  • Some people with learning difficulties will come into their own in coding or other technology-related jobs. Others may enjoy interacting with people face-to-face, so could consider customer service roles.

Overall, it is important to stay open-minded and positive. Don’t let your disability limit you when looking for your job.

There are jobs in every sector that could be right for you, that you might never have even considered before. Think about skills you may have developed through hobbies or previous experiences, and where they could be valuable.

Alternative ways of working

Many workplaces, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, have changed the ways they work, and are giving more flexibility to employees and their roles. Gone are the days when everyone had to work in the office 9-5.

Hybrid working and working from home is now the norm for many companies, which can help with travel issues and working hours. Some employers may allow you to be more flexible with your working, for example adapting your shift hours, or job-sharing with somebody else.

If it’s beneficial for you to work part-time due to your disability, that is also an option. If you are worried about your benefits, you may still be able to top up your salary with Universal Credit, or get some Council Tax relief.

Self-employment could be a great alternative. While setting up your own business can be hard work, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Being self-employed will allow you to have complete control over your work hours, and what type of work you do.

If you speak to clients and share your situation, they will be more understanding if you need to adapt your hours or work from home. You can also reject work that doesn’t meet your needs.

Support is available from your local Jobcentre Plus, or you can check out The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme if you are 18-30 and have a business idea.

There are risks involved too though. For example, if you have to take any time off due to your disability, your income could pause, and managing tight deadlines can be stressful. Make sure you do your research before jumping in head first!