Getting a job
At some stage, you and your child will start to think about what happens when they finish school. In some cases, this will mean entering the world of work for the first time.
There is support out there to help disabled people find and apply for work. And once they have, they are entitled to support to help them prosper in their role.
In this article
Your son or daughter might find it hard to imagine what work they’d like when they don’t have any experience. Schools can be helpful in arranging work placements.
Try asking people you know if they could help out or shadow them at work for a few hours. If they would struggle to do that on their own, go with them or ask someone else to help. Even half an hour can be worth it to begin with if it gives them experience of getting there and being in an unfamiliar environment.
Volunteering is another way to learn new skills and see how other people work. Again, they could start with as little as half an hour and build up gradually. Often the best way to find volunteering opportunities is simply to ask an organisation directly. You could also check local websites or noticeboards. Vocational courses are a good way to experience life in the workplace.
Be clear about what your son or daughter can offer, as well as how they’ll benefit from the chance to be involved. If they will need support, work out in advance how that can be provided and what part you might need to play.
If a job seems unrealistic right now, find activities and occupations that give structure and meaning to your child’s week. Building social and organisational skills, connecting to the community and developing confidence are all a good use of time no matter what, and may open other doors later on.
Support to get into work?
Careers guidance in school
Careers advice should be available for pupils in school. In England, schools must ensure pupils are provided with independent careers guidance from year 8 to year 13. This includes careers advice for disabled pupils.
In England, the National Careers service provides information, advice and guidance to help make decisions on learning, training and work. The service can provide advice about the different routes into certain types of jobs and occupations and support for whatever role appeals.
Information about careers services in England can be found at nationalcareers.service.gov.uk
For careers advice in other parts of the UK visit:
Disability Employment Support
Once a young person is aged 18, the local jobcentre can provide employment support. Employment support usually incudes developing skills to help a young person to find and stay in work including:
- Building confidence.
- Writing a CV.
- Where to look for job vacancies.
- Writing emails to employers.
- Filling out application forms.
- What to wear for an interview.
- Interview skills.
- Support to do a job.
- Health and wellbeing support.
- Welfare and benefits advice.
The job centre should also tell you about disability-friendly supportive employers in your area and schemes that may be able to support your son or daughter into work, including:
- Specialist Employability Support.
- Intensive Personalised Employment Support.
- Access to Work.
- Work and Health Programme.
They can advise employers on reasonable adjustments and developing accessible and inclusive workplaces and practices.
Supported employment services can be provided by charitable organisations – see the bottom of this page for more information.
Work options for disabled people
All employers must protect disabled people from discrimination – see below on rights in work. But there are some employers who have committed to supporting disabled people get into work.
Inclusive Employers is a membership organisation of mainstream employers committed to developing inclusive policies and practices. See a list of Inclusive Employers members throughout the UK.
Disability Confident Employers
The Department for Work and Pensions runs Disability Confident, a body of employers who have signed up to commitments to increase the recruitment and retention of disabled people. There are over 6,000 Disability Confident employers in the UK. You can read more about the scheme on the Disability Confident website.
The Disability Confident logo on vacancies means the employer welcomes and encourages applications from disabled people and has committed to making sure their policies and practices are inclusive and accessible. The website also has a list of employers who have signed up.
These are independent businesses with a social or environmental mission, and all their profits go back into progressing that mission. Many social enterprises provide training and jobs for people who face barriers to employment, including disabled people.
For some disabled people, self-employment can be a good choice as it lets them work in a way and to a timetable that suits them. Job Centres and other organisations can provide support in setting up a business, but many people may need ongoing help with managing business administration including tax and accounting.
What rights does my son or daughter have in work?
The Equality Act
The Equality Act (or Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland) protects disabled people from discrimination at work, in education, when accessing public and private services, goods and facilities, and when renting or buying a home.
Employers, education providers and providers of services, goods and facilities must ensure disabled people are not at a significant disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.
This also applies to volunteering, work experience or unpaid internships.
At work, employers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to support a disabled person to carry out their job, and must not treat them less favourably than non-disabled people, whether intentionally or not.
In practice, this could mean providing flexible working hours, allowing extra time off for medical appointments, or allowing someone to work from home.
An employer does not have to meet all requests, but they can only reject them if the requests aren’t ‘reasonable’.
The Equality & Human Rights Commission enforce the Equality Act. They have information, advice, resources and guides on their website. Anyone can contact them if they think someone isn’t upholding their duties under the Act.
Disclosing a disability or health condition
No one has to tell an employer they have a disability unless there’s a specific health and safety concern, for example operating hazardous machinery.
Many people worry that an employer won’t offer them a job if they say they are disabled. The difficulty is that unless someone is open, they can’t ask for support or adjustments in the workplace, and this may make it harder for them to do the job effectively. An employer can’t be held responsible if they didn’t know the employee was disabled.
Openness is a personal decision and it’s illegal for employers to ask about health, disability and previous illness in application forms unless it is essential to ensure a role can be carried out safely.
The exception to this is if an equal opportunities form is included in a job application pack, which may ask if someone is disabled. This is legal as the form is completely optional and anonymous, and people appointing staff won’t see the answers.
Adjustments for job interviews
If your son or daughter needs an adjustment to attend an interview – for example a sign language interpreter or a wheelchair accessible room – they must let the employer know in advance so they can make preparations.
An employer should not ask about any impairment during the interview, even if it’s apparent. It is up to the interviewee if they want to discuss it or disclose any further details at this point.
After a job offer
If your son or daughter has been offered a job, they could contact their new employer to let them know they are disabled, and discuss support and adjustments. It’s OK to involve a job/work coach or advocate if that is helpful.
- Information on access to work and apprenticeships and Your rights: The Equality Act from Disability Rights UK.
- Disability Rights UK has also listed organisations that help disabled jobseekers and other contacts that might help.
- Government advice on looking for work if disabled.
- See Ambitious About Autism’s Transition to Employment Toolkit.
Education beyond 16
Read about education after 16 years for young people with special educational needs (SEN).Read more
Flexible working and time offRead more
Information about the help available in your area, from local advice organisations to parent support groups.Read more