Access to Work is a specialist disability programme delivered by Jobcentre Plus, which provides practical advice and support to help disabled people and their employers overcome work-related obstacles resulting from their disability. The Access to Work programme is intended to provide funding towards equipment and support that would be above and beyond what is reasonable for an employer to supply. This will help employers comply with their legal responsibility under the Equality Act 2010 to provide reasonable adjustments to allow disabled staff to do their work.
On 19 November 2012 the Government announced changes to the Access to Work programme. These changes are targeted at disabled jobseekers who want to set up their own business and small businesses (up to 49 employees), and mean that:
- businesses with up to 49 employees will no longer pay a contribution towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work, saving them up to £2,300 per employee who uses the fund;
- disabled jobseekers who want to set up their own business through the New Enterprise Allowance will now be eligible for Access to Work funding from day one of receiving Job Seekers Allowance;
- Access to Work advisers will be given more flexibility in deciding which equipment is funded through the scheme, offering more choice to disabled people in work.
According to the Labour Force Survey, disabled people are now more likely to be employed than they were in 2002. However, disabled people remain far less likely to be in employment. In 2012, 46.3% of disabled people are in employment compared to 76.2% of non-disabled people. There are many advantages to being in work (aside from the obvious financial benefits). For example, being in work gives people a sense of achievement, entitlement, self-esteem and purpose and it is vital that people with disabilities have the same opportunities to experience these benefits as those without disabilities.
Various pieces of legislation are important in terms of employing people with disabilities, including the Equality Act 2010 (which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act 1995), the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, and the Data Protection Act 1998. Employers need to ensure that they comply with all the necessary legislation in order to offer employees with disabilities the same opportunities as other employees. For free, professional advice for employers/managers on disability in the workplace, and complying with legislative responsibilities, call the Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44.