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I’ve written about what to look for if you’re moving to Uni and you’re worried about reasonable adjustments. But what if you’re going to take some time out, re-sitting or deciding that going into employment is just the better option?

Here’s a few tips about your rights and what you can expect.

The Legal Bit

It is important to recognise that the terms ‘disabled’ or ‘impairment’ under the Equality Act are legal constructs designed to change behaviours by service providers and employers both in terms of attitude and in terms of changes to policies and practices. It should not be taken as a label to make you feel different in everyday life; it is now accepted that it is society that can ‘disable’ or ‘impair’ us, rather than our own characteristics.

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of disability. It is defined in s.6 as being a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect upon the ability to carry out normal day to day activities. Long term means has lasted 12 months, is likely to last 12 months, or for the rest of the person’s life if less than 12 months.

‘Substantial’ means anything more than minor or trivial.

Special provisions apply when determining whether for example epilepsy, speech differences, or anxiety/depression, or some chronic illnesses have fluctuating or recurring effects. The Equality Act states that, if an impairment has had a substantial adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities but that effect ceases, the substantial effect is treated as continuing if it is likely to recur. Impairments with effects which recur only sporadically or for short periods can still qualify as impairments for the purposes of the Act, in respect of the meaning of ‘long-term’.

If the substantial adverse effects are likely to recur, they are to be treated as if they were continuing. If the effects are likely to recur beyond 12 months after the first occurrence, they are to be treated as long-term. 

The Equality Act 2010 not only makes disability discrimination unlawful, but it also imposes a legal requirement on employers to consider the needs of disabled employees who might need reasonable adjustments to succeed in the work place.

When Applying for a Job

You may be worrying that disclosing your disability to a potential employer and that’s understandable because you may feel that most employers will not shortlist you because they will misunderstand their responsibilities or the costs of reasonable adjustments. In my view it is useful to make sure you have explained your disability and reasonable adjustments in advance because it allows the employer the opportunity to make those adjustments and gives you a means of effectively challenging a decision that you believe may be discriminatory.

Under the Equality Act 2010 the employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to the arrangements for interview. If you need any adjustments, it’s best to tell the employer in advance. If you’re unable to attend an interview at a specific time for disability-related reasons, it’s likely under the Act that the employer would have to rearrange.

You may want to ask for the interview questions in advance or to identify the time frame for the interview (in case you need extra time).

If it comes down to you and a non disabled applicant and you are tied on points, an employer can legally treat you more favourably.

If you are unsuccessful you can ask for feedback and you can do that with a Data Subject Access Request if necessary.

A quick point on social media…. If an employer has viewed your social media profile before they made a decision related to hiring you (such as choosing whether or not to interview you), they could have discriminated against you. This is because they may have formed an opinion about your disability that’s unrelated to your ability to do the job.

 Access to Work

It might be wise to have information with you which informs a potential employer that the costs of any disability related adjustments costs won’t be a problem by telling them about the Access to Work scheme.

Access to Work is a government programme aimed at supporting disabled people to take up or remain in work.  It can help in a number of ways, for example by paying towards:

  • Communicator, advocate or BSL interpreter for a job interview, if you’re deaf or have communication difficulties
  • Special aids and equipment
  • a support worker, such as a reader for somebody with a visual impairment; communicator for a deaf person; or a helper for personal care needs at work
  • Travel to work, which can include taxi fares

The scheme pays 100% of the approved costs (subject to the cap):

  • for travel to work, for a support worker or a communicator for support at job interviews
  • if you have been working for an employer and have been in the job for less than six weeks or
  • if you are self-employed or setting up your own business through the New Enterprise Allowance

If you have been in your job for six weeks or more when you first apply for help, Access to Work will pay a proportion of the costs of support. How much your employer will pay depends on the cost of the adaptations and the size of the employer. Pointing this out to an employer in advance makes it easier for them to understand that there is no financial penalty which affects the commerciality of employing you…. although that should not be a relevant consideration anyway.


Disability Rights UK has an excellent guide which can help you with information about grants, apprenticeships and disability confident employers which I thoroughly recommend:

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