Disability in the workplace

Working is stressful and overwhelming at the best of times. But that can be made a lot tougher if you have a disability. Luckily, the scientific and social advancements made in the last couple of decades means that life in the workplace has gotten a lot more accessible. Stick with us as we talk you through disability in the workplace.

A young man is sitting at a bus stop thinking about disability in the workplace. This is a wide-angle image.

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

You don’t have to tell an employer about your disability or long term health condition unless you’re asked directly on a medical questionnaire, or if you’d like them to know about it.

It’s up to you to decide what you want to share. In this process it’s natural to worry about discrimination, prejudice or confidentiality. However, if you don’t tell your employer about your disability, you wouldn’t have a case for discrimination, should such an issue crop up. This is because they technically didn’t know, so they couldn’t have consciously treated you unfairly. If you want to learn more about discrimination at work, then read this article.

Other advantages of telling your employer about your disability or long-term condition include:

  • Some employers pursue diversity and inclusion and want to hire people with disabilities
  • It’s an opportunity to be positive about your disability and maybe even change other people’s opinion on disability
  • They can put adjustments in place earlier to suit your needs
  • You can explain gaps in your education or work history that might appear in your CV
  • There might be a link between your disability and mental health which could affect your work. If your employer knows ahead of time, they’ll be able to help with this

Information about your disability in the workplace is protected by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 and the Data Protection Act. It’s sensitive personal information and cannot be passed on without your permission. So if you’re worried about your employer blabbing to your coworkers, the law has got you covered. 

Disability discrimination in the workplace

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

In any other circumstance, the DDA says employers have to assess you solely based on your qualifications, and also make changes to support disability in the workplace. A helpful tip is to look out for the ‘two ticks’ disability symbol, which tells you that an organisation is happy to employ people with disabilities.

If you’re one of the millions of people of working age and discriminated against because of a disability, then you should take action. This could be anything from crude comments to noticing a large disability pay gap. If this is the case, then it’s worth contacting a charity for your particular disability, since they’ll probably have lawyers who can give you advice.

What support is available for disability in the workplace?

You can expect your employer to make some changes towards a more accessible environment, such as:

  • Making adjustments to buildings
  • Giving you flexible working hours or remote work options in some cases
  • Providing you with specialist equipment
  • Adjusting your job description to fit your needs

To find out more about assistive technologies visit AbilityNet and read their factsheets. While you’re there, you can also 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 all employers are legally obligated to make reasonable changes in the interests of supporting employees with disabilities. If they’re stingy, try telling 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

So if you want to apply, contact your nearest Access to Work Centre with your details. But before you do, we should mention that you can’t get support from Access to Work if you’re volunteering, or if you’re on some types of benefit.

Extra Support

  • Take a look at the rest of our worker’s rights and pay resources here.
  • Is someone discriminating against you because of a disability or mental health condition? Acas offers free advice about everything to do with employment law, call them on 0300 123 1100
  • If you’ve had any experience of managing disability in the workplace that you would like to share, let us know on our discussion boards.

Next Steps

  • Acas offers free advice about everything to do with employment law. 0300 123 1100
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.



By Lauren Belcher

Updated on 02-Mar-2022