Disability in the workplace

Worried about how you can work with a disability? With amazing technology and laws against disability discrimination, being disabled shouldn't stop you from getting a great job and having a successful career.

girl in wheelchair at work

Disability? Check. Dream job? Check. Thanks employment law.

Should I mention my disability when I apply for a job?

You don’t have to tell an employer about your disability unless you’re asked directly on a medical questionnaire.

It’s up to you to decide what you want to share and it’s natural to worry about discrimination, prejudice or confidentiality. However, if you don’t tell your employer about your disability, but then feel you’re being treated unfairly because of it, you wouldn’t have a case for discrimination.

Other advantages of telling them include:

  • Some employers are keen to employ disabled people
  • It’s an opportunity to be positive about your disability
  • Adjustments can be put in place earlier
  • You can explain parts of your CV that might otherwise look bad, such as gaps in your education or work history

Information about your disability is protected by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 and the Data Protection Act 1998. It’s sensitive personal information and cannot be passed on without your permission.

Disability discrimination

Your disability can only stop you getting a job if it’s impossible for you to do the work, or will affect your safety.

The rest of the time, the DDA says employers can’t not hire you if you’re disabled, and also have to make changes to the workplace to help you do your job. Look out for the ‘two ticks’ disability symbol, which tells you that an organisation is happy to employ disabled people.

If you’re discriminated against at work, it’s worth contacting a charity for your particular disability, as they will probably have lawyers working for them who can give you advice.

What support can I get at work?

You can expect your employer to make some changes, such as:

  • Making adjustments to buildings
  • Giving you flexible working hours
  • Providing you with specialist equipment
  • Changing parts of your job description

To find out more about assistive technologies, go to AbilityNet and read their factsheets, or use their assessment services to make sure you have the right equipment.

Who pays for extra disability costs at work?

It’s important to remember that legally all employers must make reasonable changes for you. Tell them about the Access to Work scheme to help persuade them that costs won’t be a problem.

Access to Work can help pay towards:

  • Special aids and equipment
  • Support workers
  • Your travel to work, which can include taxi fares
  • Disability awareness training for your work colleagues

The scheme pays 100% of the approved costs for:

  • Anyone starting a new job
  • Self-employed people

To apply, contact your nearest Access to work centre with your details.

Unfortunately, you can’t get support from Access to Work if you are volunteering, or if you are on some types of benefit.

Photo of girl at work by Shutterstock.

Next Steps

  • Acas offers free advice about everything to do with employment law. 0300 123 1100
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.



By Lauren Belcher

Updated on 29-Sep-2015