Last reviewed: 22 June 2022
- Access to Work provides financial support to disabled candidates and employees who need adjustments.
- Employees and candidates need to make the application, but you should support them with this process.
- Access to Work can pay up to 100 per cent of the cost of an adjustment – read below for more information about what is available.
- Contact our Advice Service for information about how you can use Access to Work grants to support disabled candidates and employees.
The UK Government’s Access to Work scheme is subject to regular change. To ensure you have the most up-to-date information, refer to the Government’s website: gov.uk/access-to-work.
What is Access to Work?
Access to Work is a UK Government initiative that aims to support people with disabilities get jobs and stay in work. It does this by providing employers with grants for specific support for a named disabled employee or candidate. Access to Work does not arrange or supply the support directly.
Access to Work also conducts workplace assessments as part of this process, to work out what barriers the employee or candidate is facing and what will help address them.
Access to Work also offers a Mental Health Support Service.
What help is available?
Access to Work can provide grants to fund support and adjustments for disabled candidates and employees.
What will be provided depends on when the application is made, the needs of the person, and the size of the company employing or recruiting them. Access to Work makes the decision about what they provide.
Examples of common ways Access to Work can help employees and employers are:
- Providing financial support to pay for aids and equipment, such as specialist furniture or assistive software.
- Funding towards travel-to-work costs. For example, paying for taxis if the person cannot use where public transport.
- Funding towards work-related travel costs such as taxi fares between work sites to attend meetings or training.
- Help towards sign language interpreters for interviews and work.
- Covering costs for work-related support staff and job coaches. Personal care support workers are not paid by Access to Work.
- Costs related to the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service.
How much does the grant cover?
Access to Work will generally cover between 80-100 per cent of the costs of any adjustments, support, or equipment above that which an employer would typically provide. For example, they will not cover the costs of supplying a standard chair. They will advise in writing what they are prepared to fund and what is to be ‘cost shared’ with the employer.
Access to Work provides guidance on what they will fund on their website. However, these do change, so check their website for the most up-to-date information.
In general, the earlier an employee contacts Access to Work, the more of the costs are likely to be covered. In many cases, this will be 100 per cent of the costs for:
- employees who have been working for less than six weeks when they apply
- the self-employed
- employees applying to the Mental Health Support Service
- those who need support workers such as sight guides or sign language interpreters
- employees who have additional travel-to-work and travel-in-work costs
- candidates who need communication support at interviews such as sign language interpreters.
The financial value of the grant will depend on:
- whether the person is employed or self-employed
- how long the employee has been employed
- the type of help they need.
If the employee has been working for their employer for longer than six weeks, then the employer will have to share a portion of the cost.
Where cost sharing applies, there are pre-set financial thresholds. Access to Work will cover up to 80 per cent of the approved costs between the pre-set threshold and £10,000. The employer must pay 100 per cent of the expenses up to the threshold level. They must then pay 20 per cent of the costs between the threshold and £10,000. Access to Work will generally cover 100 per cent of the costs above £10,000.
The amount of the threshold is determined by the number of employees.
- 0-49 employees = nil
- 50-249 employees = £500
- 250+ employees = £1,000.
For example, a new employee applies to Access to Work once they have been in their new role for 12 weeks. The employer has a staff headcount of over 250. This means that the employer must pay the first £1,000 and then 20 per cent of the costs up to £10,000. If the costs are more than £10,000, these will generally be paid for by Access to Work.
For Access to Work to fund an adjustment for this organisation that costs £12,000, the employer would pay:
- the first £1,000
- 20 per cent of £9,000 (£1,800)
with Access to Work usually funding the remaining £2,000. This amounts to £2,800.
Another important source of support from Access to Work is workplace assessments.
These help employees and candidates with a disability or long-term health condition to work out what adjustments they need. Many disabled people already know what adjustments they need, but often it may not be clear what adjustments will be best for that individual in that role.
Access to Work will, if necessary, pay for and conduct a workplace assessment and write a report with recommendations about what adjustments could help.
Who does it help?
Access to Work provides support to employees who need support staying in work beyond what the employer provides as ‘reasonable adjustments’. The support provided by Access to Work is to fund specific support for named employees or candidates.
While the funding goes to the employer, it is for the employee or candidate to make the application to Access to Work. Employees and candidates should first discuss their support needs with the employer. If the employer is unable to provide the necessary support, employees and candidates can then apply for support from Access to Work.
If approved, Access to Work will then provide funding for the employer to make the specified adjustment for that employee or candidate.
Who is eligible?
To be able to benefit from the support offered by Access to Work, a person must meet all the following criteria:
- They must be aged 16 or older.
- They must live and work in England, Wales or Scotland. People living in Northern Ireland have access to a similar system, Access to Work (NI). The scheme does not cover the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
- They must have a disability or long-term health condition and need help, such as aids, support workers, or other adjustments, to do their job. This includes a person who has a mental health condition and needs support in the workplace. There is a specific support system for this via the Mental Health Support Service.
- They must be in, or about to start, paid employment (including self-employment) or have an interview for a paid job. This can be a permanent, temporary or casual role.
- The paid job must meet the minimum wage.
Support is also available to people who are on a Department of Education-supported internship or a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) traineeship. Support is for the time of their work placement only. The support is for work-related adjustments and does not cover the educational needs covered under other grant systems.
Are there any exclusions?
Yes. The system is slightly different for the Civil Service and ministerial government departments and agencies. Their employees can apply to Access to Work for workplace assessments and the Mental Health Support Service. However, the employee’s department will need to pay for any support required, such as specialist furniture, software and other costs.
People claiming certain benefits may not be eligible to claim Access to Work support. There are exceptions to this, such as if the person is doing ‘permitted work’, in which case they may get help for a limited time. For more information about this, refer to the ‘Access to Work’ factsheet on the government’s website.
The application process
Who contacts Access to Work?
Although the grant is awarded to the employer, Access to Work will only accept applications from the employee or a job candidate with an offer of an interview. Any application should only be made after a discussion between the employer and the individual.
An application to Access to Work can be made at any time. For example:
- At the recruitment stage. For example, if a person has been offered an interview and needs a sign language interpreter for the interview.
- A new job. A person has started work and advises Access to Work that they have a disability and need extra support within the first six weeks of employment. Access to Work will cover more of the financial costs within this time frame.
- A change to their current job. There have been changes to the role or process. For example, the person may have new duties at work and, as a result, they need additional support.
- A new disability or a change in their condition. Any person who develops a disability or long-term health condition – or whose pre-existing disability changes – during their employment and would benefit from adjustments can claim through Access to Work. For example, if someone has an accident at work that affects their mobility and now needs adjustments to perform some of their duties. Another example is someone with a progressive condition that has got more severe since they began working, and now needs more adjustments.
Contact Access to Work
In England, Scotland and Wales, applications can be made online through the Government’s website: gov.uk/access-to-work/apply.
The individual can also apply through Jobcentre Plus:
- Telephone: 0800 121 7479
- Textphone: 0800 121 7579
In Northern Ireland, applicants need to contact the Department for Communities. The Northern Ireland equivalent service can be contacted through the Jobs and Benefits Office (NI). For more information, refer to the Northern Ireland Executive’s website: nidirect.gov.uk/articles/access-work-practical-help-work#toc-2.
Applicants will need to submit certain information as part of the process, including:
- The impact of their condition on their work or ability to get to work
- Any help they’re already receiving
- Any other support that could help.
They’ll also need to provide other information about themselves and their employer. For more details, see the Government’s website: gov.uk/access-to-work/apply
What happens after the application has been submitted?
Access to Work should contact both the employee and the employer to discuss the application and what help may be needed.
If an employee knows what they need, a decision can usually be made quickly about the package of support and grant amount. For example, a person may know the specific type of software that will help them because they have used it successfully previously elsewhere.
If an employee is not sure what they will need, a more detailed workplace assessment will be required. A specialist service will often do this. For example, an employee with a new visual impairment may not know what is potentially available for them. Access to Work may request an assessor specialising in this area.
Prior to COVID-19, this would often result in a site visit by the specialist to look at all aspects of the employee’s role, including access into and out of a building if that is required. Depending on COVID-19 restrictions, these assessments may be carried out by phone or online if sign language interpretation is needed.
Is standard equipment covered?
Access to Work will not pay for equipment that is issued as standard. The employer is also expected to cover the costs of ‘reasonable adjustments’ that they are required to make under the Equality Act 2010 themselves.
Access to Work will pay for more specialist equipment and support. For example, Access to Work will not issue grants for a standard-issue office chair, but they will consider applications for grants to adapt a standard chair, or a specialist chair that is not issued as standard.
What happens to the support and equipment if an employee leaves?
The employer owns the equipment as the grant was given to them and not the employee. This also means that the employer has the responsibility to maintain, insure and dispose of it appropriately.
Some employers will allow the employee to take their equipment to their new employer if the employee leaves. If an employee wants to do this, they should agree it with the employer and Access to Work.
If the equipment is donated to the employee, the employer will have to document this as a gift. In other cases, they may sell the equipment to the employee at an agreed price. A ‘letter of entitlement’ is best practice to prove a transfer of ownership from the employer to the employee.
If Access to Work has funded a support worker, such as a sighted guide or sign language interpreter, the support will stop when the employee leaves their employer. The employee will need to contact Access to Work again if they move to a new job and this support is still required.
Receiving the recommendations
After an assessment, Access to Work will send written confirmation detailing what adjustments they recommend and the financial grant amount. They should also suggest where any equipment or services can be obtained.
It is then the responsibility of the employer to purchase the necessary support as soon as possible. The employer can buy the support from any preferred suppliers; they do not need to use those suggested by Access to Work. However, employers will need to make up the difference themselves if the support they purchase costs more than the Access to Work grant amount.
Access to Work will the refund the amount specified in their report to the employer.
What happens if the person’s needs or circumstances change?
If an employee has a change in their work circumstances, then Access to Work should be informed so that a review of their needs can be carried out. Examples of this may be when a person starts working from home instead of a company premises. Another example would be changing jobs due to a promotion, and they need further support.
Access to Work should also carry out a review after three years.
Is it possible to appeal an Access to Work decision?
Access to Work will ‘reconsider’ a grant award, but it limits this to one review. A new Access to Work adviser will carry out the review. It must be the employee who requests this. Access to Work does not use the term ‘appeal’ due to how the initial decisions are made.
Do employers have to act on Access to Work’s recommendations?
Some employers may decide that they disagree with Access to Work’s recommendations. For example, Access to Work may recommend a piece of equipment that the employer decides it is not reasonable for that employee to use in the workplace.
While Access to Work’s recommendations are not legally binding requirements, employers should be aware that choosing to ignore them can lead to legal challenges. An employee may argue that this amounts to discrimination on the part of the employer.
Employers that decide not to act on Access to Work’s recommendations should make sure they are confident they could successfully defend that decision in court. Contact our Advice Service for guidance tailored to your circumstances if you are unsure how best to proceed.
Business Disability Forum Advice Service
For tailored advice and support around Access to Work, contact our Advice Service.
Access to Work
Address: Access to Work, Operational Support Unit, Harrow Jobcentre Plus, Mail Handling Site A, Wolverhampton, WV98 1JE
Telephone: 0800 121 7479
Textphone: 0800 121 7579
Access to Work (Northern Ireland)
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