Supporting staff with disabilities and learning disabilities

Man at desk

Offering employment to disabled people or those with learning difficulties or disabilities (LDD) can have a positive effect on public health across your local community. This section provides facts, information on how to attract, recruit, support and retain disabled people or those with LDD and a suite of new resources (October 2019) including an interactive toolkit.

The facts

  • Disabled people are more than twice as likely as non-disabled people to face unemployment.
  • The employment rate of people with LDD is at 6 per cent (NHS Digital, 2018), compared to 76 per cent of the general population (NHS Digital, 2018).
  • 22 per cent of the UK population, or approximately 14.6 million people, reported being disabled in 2016/17 (Scope, 2018). People who identify as being disabled or those with LDD could have a variety of health conditions or learning disabilities.
  • Employers only have a duty to make reasonable adjustments when they are aware, or would be expected to know, that an individual is disabled. 

Attract & recruit 

  • Raise awareness of available support for disabled apprentices or those with LDD provided by Access to Work, where support can be given for as little as one hour per week.
  • Ensure that job adverts are accurate and appropriate for the role. For example 'must be fit and healthy' for a security guard excludes people with physical impairments, but 'must be able to patrol across the site' does not.
  • Advertise roles in a variety of places and formats, as not everyone may have access to a computer or the internet, or easily be able to use it. This could be using an easy read format, providing video applications, or advertising on disability specific job sites such as Evenbreak.
  • Include disabled staff members or those with LDD in advertising and clearly state that the organisation welcomes applications from a range of people with diverse backgrounds.
  • State your organisation's commitment to being Disability Confident:  
  • Consider job carving, which is the redistribution of tasks within an organisation, team, or job role to address the business need and the members of staff. For example, a data entry role could be carved from a team of nurses, which allows the nurses to spend more time in a clinical setting, but ensures the data entry task still gets done. This role could be suitable for someone with a disability or learning difficulty/disability.
  • Make partnerships with local disability and learning disability charities or organisations, or with Jobcentre Plus. These organisations can help to create a future talent pipeline which can help to address your workforce supply issues. 
  • Make reasonable adjustments at all steps of the recruitment process. Some people may be able to demonstrate their abilities in a practical setting but find answering questions in front of a panel challenging. Other adjustments could be having a telephone conversation before an interview to put candidates at ease, or asking candidates to visit the workplace before they start work to familiarise them with the environment and the people they would be working with.    
  • Learn more about your responsibilities under the Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) (mandated since April 2018).


  • Engage with current disabled staff or those with LDD to see if there is enthusiasm to set up a support network, and invite director-level representation to attend these if appropriate. 
  • Make use of NHS Employers' suite of tools and guidance which can support you in recruiting and employing someone with a learning disability.
  • Ensure you are fully aware of the support available to you as an employer in making reasonable adjustments for disabled staff, enabling them to work in your organisation.
  • Raise disability awareness and confidence with myth-busting sessions for staff about various conditions and disabilities by making use of Remploy's resources.
  • Learn more about Luton and Dunstable University Hospital NHS Trust's Apprentice Steps programme which provides work experience and accredited learning for people with LDD.

NHS Employers inclusive recruitment resources

  • Interactive toolkit - designed to help you attract, recruit, support and retain disabled staff and represent a diverse workforce that delivers high-quality patient care.
  • Suite of inclusive recruitment videos - a series of videos featuring staff with disabilities and the importance of providing workplace support.
  • Health Passport - this resource allows staff to record information about a disability, long term health condition, mental health issue or learning disability/difficulty as they move between roles in the NHS.
  • Project SEARCH supports people with disabilities gain the skills they need to get meaningful jobs. Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust shows the range of opportunities they offer and the benefits the programme brings to the trust in the below video.

Further reading

For more information on the ways you can seek to support people with learning disabilities and disabilities in their workplace, read the reports and guidance in the table below:

This report explores some of the barriers faced by disabled job seekers.
Employing disabled people and people with health conditions This guidance provides a summary of information for employers to help increase your understanding of disability and enable you to recruit and support disabled people and those with long-term health conditions in work. 
Employing people with learning disabilities: A handbook for employers  This handbook goes through a host of support and guidance which can help with barriers people with learning disabilities face when seeking employment.


Mencap has produced a number of resources and guides for employers on increasing employment opportunities for people with a learning disability.
End the awkward campaign
Scope's campaign encourages everyone to talk more openly about disability to 'end the awkward' around disability and disabled people.

Find out more about other community groups you may want to engage with and recruit into your organisation. 

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