Access to Work: A Guide for Employers and Employees

Access to Work is a government-funded employment support programme that aims to help a greater number of disabled people start work, stay in work, and even begin their own businesses. 

The scheme has proven fantastically helpful in providing practical and financial support for people with disabilities – whether physical or mental – that affect their ability to work or to transport into a place of work.

Who can apply for Access to Work?

Access to Work is open to people with a whole range of needs and disabilities. You can apply for Access to Work if you:

  • Have a disability or health condition (physical or mental) that makes it difficult for you to do parts of your job, or get to and from work;
  • Are 16 or over;
  • Live and work (or be about to start or return to work) in England, Scotland or Wales – there’s a different system in Northern Ireland;
  • Have a paid job (or be about to start or return to one) – this can include full or part-time, permanent, casual or temporary work, self-employment, apprenticeship, internship, etc.

It’s good to note that you don’t need to have a formal diagnosis of your condition to qualify, but it does help strengthen your claim if you do. Access to Work is also available for those working from home both part-time and full-time and can be applied for up to 6 weeks before starting work if you have a confirmed job offer.

How can Access to Work help you?

Access to Work can help pay for a range of support you may need for your disability or health condition, such as:

  • Aid and equipment in your workplace;
  • Adapting equipment to make it easier for you to use;
  • Money towards any extra travel costs to and from work that may occur if you can’t or struggle to use public transport, or if you need help to adapt your vehicle;
  • An interpreter or other support at a job interview if you have difficulty communicating;
  • Other practical help at work, such as a job coach, a note taker, a lip speaker, or a sign language interpreter;
  • Access to the Work Mental Health Support Service to provide advice, guidance and support to help manage your mental health at work.

The Access to Work scheme does not provide the support directly but rather provides a grant to reimburse the agreed cost of the support that is required. The amount of the grant will depend on your circumstances and the type of support you require but does not need to be repaid and will not affect your other benefits.

How can Access to Work help employers?

Access to Work can support employers to:

  • Hire disabled people with the skills they need;
  • Retain an employee who develops a disability or health condition (keeping their valuable skills and saving both time and money recruiting a replacement);
  • Show that they value and support their employee’s needs by having good employment policies and practices.

However, employers are also responsible for some of the costs of the support that their employees need. For example, employers are expected to pay for reasonable adjustments under the UK Government’s Equality Act; such as alterations to buildings, policies, and staff training to ensure their place of work services everyone equally. 

Access to Work can also give free practical advice and guidance to employers to help them understand the physical and mental health of their employees in order to better support them.

How to apply for Access to Work?

You can apply for the Access to Work scheme either online or over the phone. All you’ll need is to provide some details about yourself, your disability or condition, the work you do, and the type of support you need. 

You may also need to give some proof of costs (receipts or invoices) for some types of support, as well as an assessment from an Access to Work advisor or partner organisation who would contact you after your application.

If you’re still unsure about your eligibility, contact the Access to Work helpline by Telephone on 0800 121 7479  (9 am – 5 pm Monday to Friday).

How long does Access to Work last?

Access to Work grants usually last up to 3 years and should be reapplied for before the grant ends if the employee wishes to continue receiving support. You will need to reapply before your grant ends if you wish to continue receiving support.

You should also contact Access to Work if:

  • Your disability or health condition changes;
  • Your job changes;
  • Your employer changes;
  • Your support needs change.

After contacting them, Access to Work will review your grant and may adjust it accordingly to the new information provided to them.

Where can I find more information about Access to Work?

Access to Work is a fantastic scheme that really goes a long way to helping many of us with disabilities feel safe, secure and productive in our workplaces. 

If you might qualify for the grant or simply want to find out about the scheme in more detail, you can find the GOV.UK article here with all the information you need to get started. You can also find the Access to Work factsheet in the form of British Sign Language at the link here.