Employment support information

Information on employment for people with disabilities, including help with finding work, training, work schemes, rights at work, the role of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Disability Discrimination Act

Help with finding work

You can get help to gain new skills, find a job or stay in work from a range of organisations, including JobCentres, careers services and voluntary organisations.

Jobs & Benefits offices/JobCentres

The Department for the Economy is responsible for the national network of Jobs and  Benefits Offices/JobCentres. These give skilled advice at every stage of your search for a job and make sure you know which benefits or allowances you're entitled to claim. They can also support you if you're concerned about the impact of your disability on your existing job.

Your local Jobs and Benefits Offices/JobCentres can help and advise you regardless of your situation - even if you don't have any work experience or if you haven't worked for a long time.

Advisers for people receiving incapacity benefits

Most Jobs & Benefits offices/JobCentres have a specialist adviser who can support you if you are claiming incapacity benefits or refer you to further specialist help.

Steps 2 Success

Steps 2 Success is an employment programme to help you build the skills and experience you need to find and keep a job. The programme provides a personalised service and is tailored to meet your needs to help you into work.

Pathways to Work

If you are claiming incapacity benefits for the first time, or are claiming again after a break in receiving benefit, you will automatically be considered for Pathways to Work as a condition of getting benefit. Incapacity benefits include:

  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support on the grounds of incapacity
  • Income Support while you are appealing against a decision that you are not incapable of work
  • Severe Disablement Allowance

Pathways to Work can help people who are claiming incapacity benefits to start or return to paid work. The service offers individual support and access to a wide range of help.

Work schemes and programmes

If you have a disability that affects the kind of work you can do, you may be eligible to join some of the many programmes open to people who have been unemployed for some time.

  • Further information in the 'Work schemes and programmes' section

Working and receiving disability and incapacity benefits

Disability Living Allowance

Disability Living Allowance is a benefit that can be paid whether you are in or out of work or training, providing you have a level of care or mobility needs which meets the entitlement conditions. If you receive Disability Living Allowance and are about to start or return to work, your Disability Living Allowance will remain the same as long as your care and/or your mobility needs have not changed.

However, if you are starting or returning to work or training because your care and/or mobility needs have changed and you have not already reported this change to the Department for Communities, then you must report it so that your benefit award can be reviewed and, if necessary, a new decision made.

This could result in either an increase or a decrease in the amount of Disability Living Allowance you are entitled to.

Employment and Support Allowance and Incapacity Benefit - 'Permitted Work'

If you receive Employment and Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit, you may be able to do some limited work. This is called Permitted Work. If you get Employment and Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit and a wage, this could affect income-related benefits you receive, like Housing Benefit or Rate Relief.

Declaring a disability

There is no obligation for you to disclose a disability - it is your own decision. However, there are some things you might want to consider in making that decision.

Should you tell a potential employer about your disability?

Although you may be uncertain about how an employer may react, there are good reasons for telling a potential employer about a disability.

Employment is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). This means it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against people with disabilities in their recruitment and selection procedures.

Under the DDA, employers must also consider making any ' reasonable adjustments' you might need in order to enable you to work for them. If you don't declare a disability, an employment tribunal might decide that your employer was justified in failing to make adjustments for you. However, it could also decide that your employer could reasonably be expected to know about your disability even if you have not declared it.

It is worth remembering that if your employer does not know you have a disability, they cannot make any adjustments to help you succeed in your job.

  • See also 'Employment rights and the Disability Discrimination Act' section below

Deciding how and when to declare a disability

The DDA is the law, but keep these points in mind when deciding whether to disclose a disability.

If you're asked in an interview or on an application form whether you have a health condition or disability, answer in a straightforward way. Make the distinction between a health condition and a disability.

If you sign a declaration saying you do not have a disability when in fact you do, this may have consequences later on.

Application forms and medical questionnaires

Some application forms ask direct questions about disability, so you can give all the details you feel are important when completing the form.

If necessary, explain how your disability would affect you in a work environment - or say that it has no practical effect. Focus on your abilities and why you think you're the right person for the job.

If you feel that having a disability, or your life experience due to your disability, increases your ability to do the job, mention this on the part of the application form that asks why you're suitable for the job. If you don't disclose a disability, it may be harder to explain its positive aspects later on.

You may also be asked direct questions about disability and health on a medical questionnaire. Whether you will need to fill one out, and at what stage you do this, can depend on the type of job or employer.

Attending interviews

If you're shortlisted for an interview and need practical support, such as a sign language interpreter or help getting to the interview, you should contact the employer to arrange this.

It's much easier for employers to respond to your needs if they can prepare in advance. It's a good idea to disclose a disability before an interview, although this is not a legal requirement.

If you wait until the interview and you have a disability you haven't told the employer about, it may take them by surprise. They may ask irrelevant questions about your disability that you could have answered simply on the application form. The time should be spent explaining why and how you're the right person for the job, not focusing on issues of disability.

Employers with a commitment to employing people with disabilities

Your decision to disclose your disability may be influenced by your judgement about the attitude of a particular employer. The following points may help you make that judgement. Many employers have equal opportunities policies. These organisations will have a certain commitment to recruiting and employing without prejudice.

You may feel more comfortable disclosing a disability if the organisation has an equal opportunities policy.

Finding out more at Jobs & Benefits offices/JobCentres

If you're worried about declaring your disability and would like help, talk to your local Jobs & Benefits office/JobCentre. They can help you decide on the best way to explain your suitability for the job, or, if you would find it helpful, they may contact the employer on your behalf.

Disability discrimination at work

If you believe that your employer, or prospective employer, has subjected you to disability discrimination, you may want to consider taking action.

Action to take if you are discriminated against

As a first step, you might want to have an informal discussion with your employer, or prospective employer, about your needs and why you feel you are being discriminated against. Remind the employer of your rights and their responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act.

If this discussion does not provide a satisfactory outcome, you could make a complaint about your treatment through your employer's internal grievance procedure, if you are already in employment.

If you are still not satisfied, you might want to contact the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), or follow the 'Questions Procedure' or make a complaint to an Industrial Tribunal, or all three.

If you wish to make a complaint to an Industrial Tribunal, you must do so within three months of the date of the alleged act of discrimination taking place.

Help and advice from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

The Equality Commission NI can provide free and confidential advice to people who believe they have been subjected to disability discrimination and other forms of unlawful discrimination.

It also provides free general advice to employers and service providers on recommended good practice under the Disability Discrimination Act.

For more information you can contact the Equality Commission NI

You can also obtain further information on the Equality Commission’s website about making a claim:

The Questions Procedure

This is a statutory method of obtaining information from an employer that might help you to prove whether you have been subjected to unlawful discrimination. To use the Questions Procedure you must obtain a Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) statutory questionnaire.

You need to complete the first part of this questionnaire yourself, setting out the reasons why you feel you have been discriminated against, and ask the employer to comment on your claim. You then need to ask the employer to reply to the questionnaire.

Whether or not you agree with them, your employer's answers in the questionnaire should help you decide if you can settle the dispute or need to make a complaint to an Industrial Tribunal.

The DDA statutory questionnaire (for employment complaints) is available from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland which offers free, confidential and impartial advice on matters of discrimination in employment.

You can also obtain further information on the Equality Commission’s website about the Questions Procedure:

Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal

Industrial Tribunals are independent judicial bodies in Northern Ireland that hear and determine claims to do with employment matters. These include a range of claims relating to:

  • unfair dismissal
  • breach of contract
  • wages and other payment

Industrial Tribunals also deal with claims relating to discrimination on the grounds of:

  • sex
  • race
  • disability
  • sexual orientation
  • age
  • part time working
  • equal pay

The Fair Employment Tribunal is an independent judicial body in Northern Ireland that hears claims relating to allegations of discrimination on the grounds of religious belief and political opinion in employment.

The Office of the Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal (OITFET) can provide information about tribunal publications, explain how the tribunal system works and answer general queries about tribunal matters. You can find out more on the OITFET website.

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