Access to Work – Meeting the cost of workplace adjustments

Access to Work

Access to Work

Disclosing a disability to a potential employer can be daunting enough on its own but having to ask for costly adjustments such as assistive technology, adapted furniture, or support personnel can lead to additional anxiety or concerns for a disabled applicant.

Access to Work is here to help!

What is Access to Work I hear you shout? (Well actually I don’t as I am deaf but if you shout loud enough my ATW funded reporter will hear and pass the question on). So what is it, who gets it, how much can you get, and how do you access it?

What is it?

Access to Work (ATW) is a government scheme that will pay for most adjustments that are required once a person is in paid employment. It covers all paid employment including internships and work placements, full time and part time work, and permanent or temporary roles. It will even cover the cost of communication support at interview but it is worth noting that this is the only cost they will meet at interview stage.

There are a number of ways in which ATW can help. Examples include:

  • Paying for a support worker. Types of support might include reading to a visually impaired person, communication support for a hearing impaired person via a Sign Language interpreter, Speech to Text Reporter, Lipspeaker or Electronic Notetaker
  • Providing specialist coaching for a person with learning difficulties or helping a person with care needs
  • Special aids equipment to help a disabled person perform their role in the work place;
  • Adaptation to premises or to existing equipment
  • Help with the additional costs of travel to, or in, work for people who are unable to use public transport

Who gets it?

Access To Work is available for any disabled worker who meets the following criteria:

  • Has a disability or health condition that has a long term substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out their job
  • Is over 16 years old
  • Is in, or about to start, paid employment (including self-employment)
  • Normally lives and works in Great Britain, and
  • Is not claiming Incapacity Benefit or Employment Support Allowance once they are in work.

As said this covers any type of paid employment regardless of length of contract, however, it does not cover people undertaking voluntary work or unpaid placements.

How much can you get and how do you get it?

It is important to submit an application for ATW support as soon as you have accepted a job offer as it can take some time for the adjustments to be sourced and implemented in the work place. The time in which you make a claim can also affect the amount of funding given.

ATW will pay up to 100% of costs for adjustments when the claim is made within the first 6 weeks of Employment and, additionally, will consider paying 100% of costs for the following support regardless of when the claim is made:

  • Additional costs of travel to work for people who are unable to use public transport;
  • Support worker or reader to assist in the workplace;
  • Communicator for support at job interviews.
  • The Mental Health Support Service

Additionally it will consider paying up to 100% of costs for self-employed people.

The level of grant will depend on whether the person is employed or self-employed, how long the claimant has been in their job, and the type of help required.

For those who have been in work more than six weeks and require support other than that listed above the employer may be asked to contribute up to 20% of the cost depending on the size of organisation.

The application process is relatively straightforward. The disabled employee makes the application by contacting the Customer Service Team on 0345 268 8489.   The team will take basic information and pass to an ATW Adviser. It is a telephone based service but alternative arrangements can be made if appropriate and required.

The ATW Adviser will contact the customer within 7 days to progress the application and discuss the support that may be needed in the work environment. Once support is agreed the customer will sign a Customer Declaration Form.

The Customer Service Team can be contacted on:

Telephone: 0345 268 8489

Textphone: 0845 608 8753

Email:  atwosu.london@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Viki Chinn, AGCAS Disability Task Group, LSE Careers.


To disclose or not to disclose…?

Positive About Disabled People logo

In terms of disability, a common question from students is ‘should I disclose’? The answer to this question is not straightforward as it might first appear – despite legislation requiring that (with a few exceptions) employers treat applicants and employees equally regardless of disability, gender, age, race, religion or sexual orientation.

Deciding whether to share a protected characteristic such as a disability with an employer (usually described as ‘disclosure’ in employment terms) is a personal choice – there is no one right answer for everyone. In particular if a disability will have no impact on their job, a candidate might prefer not to share this information.

However, if an applicant is asked directly during the application process whether they have a disability or health condition, and give false information, then they may be liable for dismissal should their employer find out later on. You may also wish to share information about a disability if it has health and safety implications for yourself or your colleagues.

An increasing number of employers are going beyond the requirements of the law and are actively promoting diversity in the workplace, with schemes like  ‘Two Ticks: Positive about Disabled People  and some employers apparently utilising strengths commonly associated with certain disabilities. It can be advantageous in some cases to share information about a disability with an employer.

Despite steps to overcome discrimination however, it does of course still exist, to the extent that in the recent past one organisation tasked with supporting disabled people into the workplace has allegedly been derogatory about clients and high profile companies have been sued by employees for operating discriminatory practices against them.

Even the word ‘disclosure’ itself is controversial, with some disability support services favouring the expression ‘sharing’ because of the negative and secretive connation attached to the expression ‘to disclose’. It’s important then that applicants are aware of their rights and what they can do if they feel they have been discriminated against.

What are the benefits of sharing information with an employer about a disability?

In theory at least there can be several benefits of sharing information about a disability with an employer:

  • The applicant is covered by the Equality Act 2010
  • The employer must make any reasonable adjustments requested at interview or in the workplace
  • The applicant can control how the employer finds out about their disability and their impression of it
  • The applicant may be eligible for help from the Access to Work scheme

When should I share information about a disability?

It’s up to the applicant when they want to share this information, but it makes sense to consider practical considerations, such as any reasonable adjustments that might be needed for the next stage of the application process (such as physical adaptions, an interpreter or extra time in psychometric tests).

Sharing information about a disability at an interview can sometimes take the employer by surprise and means that they are unlikely to be able to make reasonable adjustments for that interview if any are required, but again this is the applicant’s choice.

Often a good place for applicants to share this information can be in a covering letter or application form, as this gives an opportunity to explain any potential implications of a disability. It may also aid an application to highlight specialist skills and qualities acquired and developed as a result of a disability.

Where can I find further resources on sharing information about a disability?

The following resources discuss sharing information about a disability with an employer, and offer advice on when and how to do this, if the applicant so chooses:

Claire Byron, AGCAS Disability Task Group, Newcastle University Careers Service.


Supporting disabled clients – case studies and frequently asked questions on the AGCAS website

The AGCAS Disability Task group have recently produced a series of case studies, providing advice for colleagues, based on real experiences of working with clients. The case studies cover the following disabilities: Asperger syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, hearing impairment, mental health and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These studies are designed to share some potential practical solutions and ideas that we hope will be a source of help to our AGCAS colleagues. We would, of course, be very pleased to receive feedback.

The case studies can be found by signing in as normal onto the main AGCAS site, typing ‘Disability’ into the search field and looking in the ‘Resources‘ section.

The studies can be used alone or in conjunction with the ‘Frequently asked questions‘ section, which we have recently updated and which can be found in the same place on the AGCAS site as the case studies. The questions cover a range of typical issues that colleagues working with disabled clients may need to know about. The questions are:

1. What does the legal definition of disability include and what current legislation should you be aware of with regards to disability issues in the workplace?

2. What is a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA), how do individuals apply for it and what type of educational support might it provide?

3. What type of support do university careers services typically provide to disabled students and graduates?

4. How, when and why should a student disclose their disability in an application for employment or further study?

5. How can you identify disability-friendly employers?

6. How do disabled graduates fare in the job market?

7. What further resources should I refer to when working with disabled students and graduates?

We hope the information is helpful.

Paul Barnes, Disability Task Group member.