Disability and Work

Focus on Disability - For Disabled People, the Elderly and their Carers in the UK

Many disabled people in the UK are employed, with the right support the number could be increased

Of the working-age people with disabilities in the UK, almost half are employed – but this figure should be higher. With the right support, many more could join their ranks.

Over recent years there has been, and is, much criticism of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for assessing disabled and ill people as being fit for work when they are clearly not. This has caused untold distress for many and the bullish and unfair system seems likely to continue under the present Government policy.

If you have a disability, you may be worried that it will limit your job prospects or that you won’t be able to find work.

But there’s lots of guidance, support and training to help you into employment. Government-backed schemes can help, while awareness-raising initiatives are challenging the stereotypes about people with disabilities to ensure that everyone has a fair chance of working.

Know your rights

Whatever your physical or learning disability, you have a right to equality, fairness, respect and understanding at your workplace.

Employees and jobseekers with disabilities are legally protected against discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. You’re legally entitled to fair treatment when it comes to recruitment, promotion and pay. It also means that employers must make their workplaces accessible to you.

It’s now recognised that working has health benefits. The government has pledged to help employers and the medical profession work together to get people with disabilities into work. GOV.UK outlines the help available in looking for work if you’re disabled, which contains advice on looking for work, work schemes, support while you’re in work, and employment rights.

Your local job centre can arrange an interview with a disability employment adviser, who is specially trained to help disabled people find suitable jobs. To find your nearest centre, see GOV.UK: Contact Jobcentre Plus.

GOV.UK also has details of the “two ticks” scheme for disabled people. Employers who adopt this initiative take a positive approach to disability, and offer interviews to all disabled applicants who meet the minimum job criteria. Look out for the two ticks symbol on websites and job application forms.

Government support for disabled working

There are two government schemes to help you find suitable work: access to work and work choice.

Access to work

Access to work is a scheme that provides money towards the cost of equipment or support workers that can help enable you to work. You can find out more by reading the information on GOV.UK about access to work.

Work choice

Work choice is a scheme that helps people with disabilities who can’t be helped by other work schemes. It can provide you and your employers with support. Find out more on GOV.UK: about work choice.

Financial support for disabled workers

If you’re ill or disabled, you may be able to apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) from the government, which offers you:

  • financial support if you’re unable to work
  • personalised help so that you can work if you’re able to

You can apply for ESA if you’re employed, self-employed or unemployed.

You might be transferred to ESA if you’ve been claiming other benefits like Income Support or Incapacity Benefit.

How much ESA you’ll get

How much ESA you get depends on:

  • your circumstances, such as your income
  • the type of ESA you qualify for
  • where you are in the assessment process

ESA rates of award

Universal Credit

Universal Credit provides a new single system of means-tested support for working-age people who are in or out of work. Support for housing costs, children, childcare costs, carers, claimants with health conditions and disabilities are integrated in the new benefit. This means that more support will be targeted at people with more severe disabilities.

This will be achieved through two elements: the Limited Capability for Work element and, for more severely disabled claimants, the Limited Capability for Work and Work Related Activity element. Entitlement to these elements is based on the outcome of a Work Capability Assessment, aligning with existing arrangements for ESA.

Universal Credit – Benefit Rates 2019 to 2020 and 2018 to 2019

Work Capability Assessment

You must go to a Work Capability Assessment while your ESA claim is being assessed. This is to see to what extent your illness or disability affects your ability to work.

You’ll then be placed in one of two groups if you’re entitled to ESA:

  • work-related activity group, where you’ll have regular interviews with an adviser
  • support group, where you don’t have interviews

How employers can help disabled workers

Employers can also find information on GOV.UK about recruiting disabled people and helping disabled employees to stay in work.

If you’re disabled or become disabled while in work, your employer should help you to stay in your job. Changes that your employer should consider – in consultation with you – include:

  • transferring you to another post
  • making changes to your place of work
  • providing a reader or interpreter

There may be support for your employer to make these adjustments through Access to Work.

You can see examples of how employers helped different employees to stay in work on GOV.UK.

Dave Parr is a project worker with Disability Champions at Work, a TUC-backed organisation. He says that stereotypes about people with disabilities can be the biggest barrier between you and getting a job.

“The way to stop this is to educate people with meaningful disability awareness training,” he says.

You can learn more about the recruitment process for people with disabilities from an employer’s point of view and preventing discrimination on GOV.UK. Trade unions can also provide support.

Parr says: “In five years, Disability Champions at Work has recruited more than 600 representatives who champion disabled people’s rights in the workplace.

“They’ve made a huge difference to the working lives of many people, and raised disability as a trade union issue.”

Information for carers in the workplace

If you’re a carer who also works or is thinking about returning to work, read our pages on employment rights for carers and carers returning to work.