Access to Work: Help in the workplace

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If you have a disability or a physical or mental health condition, it can sometimes be difficult for you to do your job – let alone find something new. However, help is always available to improve your job search or workplace conditions.

Access to Work is a publicly funded employment support programme to practically and financially support people with a disability or health condition. The programme applies to all workers, including trainees, apprentices, contract workers and business partners.

Here’s a quick guide on making reasonable adjustments in the workplace – and what Access to Work could do to help your career:

 

Talk to your employer about reasonable adjustments

First thing’s first, if you have a disability or health condition that you require help with in the workplace, talk to your employer about any changes that would help you.

Known as ‘reasonable adjustments’, your employer must make certain changes to ensure you’re not at a disadvantage when doing your job.

These adjustments also apply to interviews if the assessment isn’t suitable for your needs.

 

Reasonable adjustments Include:

  • Adjusting the recruitment process so a candidate can attend an interview and be considered for a job. For example, the employer should ensure mobility aid users can interview on the ground floor if there is no lift. Or, for those who have trouble using a pen to complete a written test, an employer should offer a computer
  • Making physical changes to the workplace to help employees, such as installing a ramp for a wheelchair user or an audio-visual fire alarm for those who are hearing impaired
  • Giving employees the option to do tasks another way if this helps their health condition – e.g. allowing someone with a social anxiety disorder to have their own desk instead of hot-desking
  • Changing equipment to fit an employee’s need – e.g. providing a special keyboard for those with arthritis
  • Supporting employees who become disabled to make a gradual return to work, including flexible hours or part-time working

The Equality Act: What you need to know

 

Get extra help from Access to Work

If your employer is unable to make the necessary changes to help your situation, you can then apply for help from Access to Work.

This support may include a grant that doesn’t have to be paid back, to cover the costs of practical assistance in the workplace. This grant will not affect your other benefits.

An Access to Work grant can pay for:

  • Special equipment, adaptations or support worker services to help you do things like go to meetings or answer the phone
  • Help travelling to and from work if you can’t use public transport, or if you need to adapt your vehicle

Access to Work will work with your employer to advise them on how best to support you in the workplace.

You or your employer will then be able to buy the items or services you need and Access to Work will pay the money back, up to the amount of the grant awarded.

To be eligible for assistance, you have to currently be in a paid job or about to start one. You can also apply if you are about to return to work or be interviewed for a job.

Once approved, the grant amount depends on your circumstances and the support you’re offered will be based on your needs.

 

Mental health support

One in six workers is dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress, which can stop you performing at your best.

Access to Work also provides confidential support and advice from a trained healthcare professional from the Mental Health Support Service.

Specialist advisors provide a support plan with helpful coping strategies and practical advice to assist you in your working role. You don’t need to have a diagnosed condition to use the service.

Once you’re ready to go ahead with asking for reasonable adjustments in your workplace, apply for Access to Work online or call 0800 121 7479.

How to talk about mental health at work

 

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