Blind person using computer with braille computer display

June 22, 2023, by Leah Sharpe

Am I Considered To Have a Disability and What Does This Mean in the Workplace?

By Harriet Akehurst, Employability Officer

Navigating the world of work can be tricky. What about if you have a disability or long term health condition? How do you know if you’re entitled to adjustments or support in the workplace?

What is considered to be a “disability” under the Equality Act? 

The Equality Act 2010 was established to protect individuals in relation to specific characteristics such as age, race, pregnancy, sexual orientation, etc and this includes disabilities.

Under the Equality Act you are considered to have a disability if:

  • You have a condition that has a substantial effect on your life and makes daily activities more difficult for you. This could be a physical disability/health condition such as diabetes, visual impairment, heart conditions etc. It could also relate to a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar or a learning difference/neurodiversity such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia etc. 
  • Your condition/disability has lasted or is expected to last longer than 12 months OR is likely to recur (for example, ill mental health that has improved recently). 

The main thing to remember is that the Equality Act focuses on how the disability/condition affects you, rather than your diagnosis.

Even if you don’t say you’re disabled or consider yourself to be disabled and you require support in the workplace, you may still be protected by the Equality Act. This means employers have an obligation to provide support and adjustments for you. Examples of this might be:

  • You might have a sleep disorder which impacts on your sleeping pattern. This could cause fatigue, loss of concentration, impaired decision making abilities, reduced productivity.     
  • If you have chronic migraines, you might experience intense pain, “brain fog”, sensitivity to light, or disorientation, all of which will impact on your ability to complete tasks effectively. 

What does this mean for work?

The Equality Act covers you when applying for work and during employment. It is up to you whether you’d like to disclose this information to an employer, however, generally to be covered by the act you need to let an employer know that you have a disability(s).  

If you have a disability/condition you can ask for reasonable adjustments to help you carry out your work effectively. It’s important to remember, you don’t necessarily have to have a specific diagnosis, or be receiving disability benefits to be eligible for adjustments. 

Adjustments can be made during the application and interview process, which can help to put you on a level playing field with other candidates. 

When starting work you may require adjustments such as an adapted chair or desk, specialist computer programmes and noise cancelling headphones. There are other adjustments that can be made for example, hybrid working arrangements, adjustments to working hours, increased frequency of breaks and many more. 

The adjustments will depend on the position and key requirements of the role must be considered “reasonable”. For instance, it would not be reasonable for someone to state they cannot speak on the phone if they have applied for a phone operator role.  

See the following examples of adjustments for specific disabilities:

  • Sleep disorder –  hybrid working, flexible working hours, quiet/rest areas to take a break in, minimising distractions and noises (could include noise cancelling headphones).
  • Chronic migraines – ergonomically designed work stations, modified lighting, noise reduction measures, break and rest areas and flexible working hours. 

It can often feel quite daunting to speak to potential employers about adjustments, so take a look at our Applying with a disability page, which covers the application process, how and when to share disabilities, and further specific information. 

How can the Careers team help?

Feel free to book an appointment with one of our careers advisers to start thinking about what sort of work is right for you. Your disability may or may not impact on your career decision making, but we can support you all the way through from career planning, applying, interviews and accepting offers, providing specialist information tailored to your needs. 

In addition to the Careers website, take a look at What counts as a disability?Reasonable adjustments at work , and Advice and support – Disability charity SCOPE for further information. 

Posted in Careers AdviceDisability