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.
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.
The charity Leonard Cheshire Disability runs an internship scheme called Change100, which brings together the UK's top employers and talented disabled students.
Watch videos and read personal stories from three Change100 role models who have benefited from the scheme.
Find out more about how Leonard Cheshire Disability supports disabled people looking for work.
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.
Find out more about your rights at work with a long-term condition.
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 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
Find out more from GOV.UK about how much ESA you can get.
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.
- The Limited Capability for Work (LCW) Element is £124.86 per month, which is the same level of support provided for disabled adults in the Work Related Activity Component of ESA).
- The Limited Capability for Work and Work Related Activity Element (LCWRA), the higher rate of additional support for severely disabled adults, is £311.86 per month. (This is significantly more than the support currently provided by the Support Component of ESA).
The LCWRA element is at a higher rate than the ESA equivalent to recognise the additional needs of severely disabled claimants.
Additionally, disabled people will receive larger work allowances for earned income. The government hopes this will help to encourage people currently out of work to take their first steps into employment, by increasing the incentives to do even a small amount of work.
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.