Following new measures introduced in Parliament, from 1 April 2018 disabled workers can now benefit from a £15,000 rise in Access to Work grants to assist them at work. Such workers can now claim up to £57,200 annually to help pay for the additional support that they may need in the workplace, which is over £15,000 more than the previous cap of £42,100.
The Access to Work scheme is a government-funded scheme that helps disabled workers in the workplace by providing them with practical support and helping to pay for reasonable adjustments. Under the scheme, disabled workers can be supported by various measures, including special aids, equipment or adaptations needed at work, a support worker to help them do their job, help with travel arrangements for work if they have difficulties using public transport, the provision of a communicator at job interviews, mental health support and disability awareness training for work colleagues.
The disabled worker needs to apply for the grant themselves from the Access to Work scheme. How much they are awarded depends on their circumstances, but the grant does not have to be paid back as it is not a loan. To be eligible for an Access to Work grant, the worker must have a disability or health condition that affects their ability to work, be aged 16 or over and live in England, Scotland or Wales. The worker must also have a paid job, be attending a job interview, be about to start a job (including work experience or an apprenticeship) or be self-employed. In addition, their disability or health condition must either affect their ability to do a job or mean they will have to pay work-related costs, e.g. special computer equipment or travel costs because they can’t use public transport, and it must either be likely to last at least a year or have lasted at least a year already.
If you recruit a disabled worker, make sure they are aware of the Access to Work scheme and advise them to apply for a grant as a matter of priority. This is because Access to Work can cover all of the costs (up to the annual cap) if the worker is about to start paid employment or has been employed for less than six weeks when they apply for help. However, if they have been employed for six weeks or more, you may have to pay some of the costs. Under the Equality Act 2010, you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to make sure disabled workers are not placed at a substantial disadvantage when doing their jobs – and you must generally pay for such adjustments. The Access to Work scheme could therefore potentially save you money if it covers the costs of special aids, equipment, adaptations, etc. that you would otherwise have to pay for as they constitute a reasonable adjustment.