Access to Work: a guide to getting support in the workplace
Starting a new job can be a daunting prospect for anyone.
When you have a disability or long term health condition you have additional things to consider, whether you already have a job, are returning to work or are starting a new role.
The government run scheme Access to Work (AtW) aims to alleviate these additional worries by providing you with the help and support you need to make your workplace accessible for you. A successful applicant can receive financial funding for things such as assistive software, funds to cover the cost of a Personal Assistant or even transport to and from your workplace.
Access to Work: What is it?
· A government led scheme, which provides financial grants for people with health conditions or disabilities to implement support during employment.
· You must have a disability/long term health condition, live in England, Scotland or Wales and have a paid job, or about to start/ return to one.
· Support can include the cost of a Personal Assistant, travel and assistive equipment/software.
· When an application is submitted, each applicant is assigned an Access to Work Advisor who discusses the details of your application, the nature of your role and why you require the support you have requested.
· Applicants must provide evidence as to why they require a form of support/product to enable them to do their role.
· The process is lengthy, time consuming and you must be prepared to discuss personal matters in detail with you AtW Advisor.
· If the support is required upon starting a role, it is suggested that you consult with your employer to make alternative arrangements whilst your application is considered.
What Do We Mean By Workplace Adjustments?
· Under the Equality Act 2010, employers in England and Wales have a duty to provide adjustments to avoid their employee being placed at a disadvantage due to their disability.
· These may include adjusting the recruitment process, making physical changes so that the workplace is accessible, offering flexible working arrangements and providing quiet spaces in the workplace.
· Employers may request their employee seek support through Access to Work when the cost of their adjustments is beyond the remit of what they can provide.
· It is advised that before an Access to Work application is submitted, the employee should consult with their employer first to discuss the remit of adjustments they can provide.
A few words of wisdom if you're thinking of applying for support through Access to Work:
Incorporating How Do I?’s Products in the Workplace
· A person must demonstrate to their Access to Work Advisor why they need How Do I?’s products in order to do their job. The adviser may also discuss a person’s application with their employer to arrive at the most cost effective decision.
· Employers may be required to provide supporting evidence towards an employee’s application. How Do I? case studies may be able to act as supporting evidence for a potential user.
· Applicants must provide quotes from individual providers outlining the cost details of the product.
· If How Do I? is the sole provider of this product, then three different quotes are normally requested, most often the cheapest quote is accepted.
· The employer or applicant can buy the products or services required; Access to Work will then reimburse up to the amount of the grant that has been offered.
From the perspective of an applicant
The Access to Work programme is, in theory, a good way for people with disabilities to access some financial support for the tools they need to be successful in their workplace. However, it can also have some downsides. I have applied for the Access to Work programme myself and have received feedback from other applicants. In our personal experience, some of the negative aspects of applying include:
The success of an application can seem to depend on the advisor who is assigned to your case; a level of inconsistency is noted from the experience of previous applicants.
You have to be available at short notice to discuss your application with you allocated advisor, who in my experience is impersonal and simply ticking boxes to process your application.
The Access to Work scheme is a fantastic initiative designed to provide disabled people with equal opportunities in the workplace, however it is a lengthy process that requires patience and flexibility.
Be prepared to discuss personal details at great length.
If it is your first time applying, set up alternatives and discuss implementing support through your employer as you can wait months just to hear a yes or no decision on your case.
When you're ready to apply for Access to Work, check out the government's application page: https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work/apply
For more information about how we can support you in the workplace, go to www.wearehowdoi.com
Mel Barber - Digital Marketing and Project Assistant for How Do I?