Whether you are a person with a disability looking for a job for the first time or re-entering the work force after an absence, it is important to take stock of both your skill-set, and any practicalities associated with your disability and the kind of work you do, or are applying for.
Today, many employers have an equal opportunities policy in place and will make it clear on job applications that they welcome suitably qualified applicants with disabilities.
The Legal Position
It is important to be aware of your rights, and of the obligations potential employers have towards you under equality legislation.
In Ireland, it is illegal to discriminate against any employee on the basis of disability. This right is set down in legislation (Employment Equality Acts 1998-2004, and the Equal Status Acts 2000-2004).
In these Acts, discrimination is defined as the treatment of one person in a less favourable way than another person is, has been or would be treated.
An employer may not discriminate on grounds of disability, but that does not mean that the employer must recruit or promote someone who is not willing to do or fully capable of doing the job in question.
A person with a disability may be capable of doing a job if special services or facilities are provided. If this is so, the employer may not consider him/her incapable, provided any special facilities or services required can be supplied without imposing a disproportionate burden on the employer.
It is up to you to decide whether or not to disclose your disability to a potential employer. This is particularly so if your disability is not obvious (such as a chronic illness like arthritis or a mental illness). Where a disability may keep you from performing certain duties, while you may have your reasons for keeping your disability private, your employer cannot accommodate any special needs you may have, if they do not know about your condition.
GETTING INTO EMPLOYMENT
There are a number of support schemes and training opportunities available to people with disabilities who want to enter the work force.
Labour market services for people with disabilities include helping them to find paid employment or preparing them for work through training or employment programmes.
Employment supports are provided by the Department of Social Protection. Supports currently available include the following:
Job Interview Interpreter Grant Scheme
If you are a jobseeker who is deaf, hard of hearing or has a speech impairment you can apply for funding to have a sign language interpreter or other interpreter attend a job interview with you. Funding can also be provided to cover the costs of an interpreter during an induction period when you start work.
|Click here for detailed information on the Job Interview Interpreter Grant Scheme.
Supported Employment Programme
The Supported Employment Programme (EmployAbility) helps people with disabilities find work and offers them ongoing support, including job coaches, throughout their employment. The programme operates through a range of organisations around the country.
|Click here for detailed information on the Supported Employment Programme.
Vocational training is available for all unemployed people and for those who are re-entering the workforce through specific skills training and traineeships. People with disabilities are encouraged to make use of all these training options. Clich here for detailed information.
Training courses for people with disabilities who may need more intensive support than would be available in non-specialist training courses are delivered by specialist training providers. Some key features of specialist training include adapted equipment, a more individual approach and longer training sessions.
The Community Employment Scheme (CE) helps the long-term unemployed and people with disabilities (among others) to get back to work.
|Click here for detailed information on CE Schemes.
The Community Services Programme aims to address disadvantage by supporting local community activity and providing local employment opportunities for certain groups of people, including people with disabilities.
|Click here for detailed information on the Community Services Programme.
The Rural Social Scheme provides income support for farmers and fishermen who are receiving long-term social welfare payments such as disability payments.
|Click here for detailed information on the Rural Social Scheme.
Existing employment supports for people with disabilities, which were previously provided by FÁS (now SOLAS), are provided by the Department of Social Protection.
Supports are available for both Employees and Employers:
Supports for Employees
If you develop a disability
If you have a job and become disabled – for example, through an accident or illness – you may want to return to work at some time. In this situation, it is advisable to sit down with your employer and openly discuss your options. Depending on the nature of your disability and the type of job you have, your disability may have no impact on the type of job you have or your ability to perform it. Your particular disability may require that your workplace be adapted or you may need special equipment in order to perform your job.
If you become more disabled or need further support
In situations where you already have a disability that has altered or is progressive, you should also sit down with your employer and discuss your available options and needs. Some of the issues you might discuss may involve whether or not your existing job requires further adaptation, whether alterations are required to the premises and whether your working conditions and work practices will need to change. You should also be frank and realistic about your own ability to continue to work.
Options at work
The onset or progression of a disability can be a devastating experience. However, it does not always mean that you will have to give up your job. Employers are obliged to make reasonable accommodations for staff with disabilities and often, you can continue working in an adapted workplace or with equipment and changes to your work practice and conditions of employment. Some possible options for you and your employer include:
Partial re-deployment - this allows you to continue to do part of your original job (either part-time or with the addition of new tasks). You can drop certain tasks and take on others that are currently carried out by other colleagues.
Re-deployment - in a situation where you are unable to perform your previous job, but could carry out another function within the organisation, re-training and re-deployment are options you and your employer can consider.
Flexible working arrangements - If you have a disability, being able to work part-time, flexitime, job share or work from home may be a deciding factor in whether you can resume your working life.
Adapting the workplace and assistive technology - an accessible workplace and assistive technology can allow you to perform your job without difficulty. The Workplace/Equipment Adaptation Grant provides funding towards the costs of modifications or special equipment that will allow a disabled person to take up an offer of employment or to remain in employment. Click here for details.
Personal Reader Grant - If you are blind or visually impaired and you need help with job-related reading, you may be entitled to a grant to allow you to employ a personal reader. Click here for details.
Disability payments and work
If you are getting certain disability payments, for example, Disability Allowance and Blind Pension, you may be allowed to do some work that is rehabilitative or therapeutic - with permission from the Department of Social Protection - see ‘Employment schemes’ below.
Note: Since 13 February 2012 if you are getting Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension and you wish to return to work you may qualify for Partial Capacity Benefit.
Supports for Employers
There are a number of support schemes available to an employer if a member of staff acquires a disability or if you hire a new staff member who has a disability. These employment supports are provided by the Department of Social Protection.
Workplace/Equipment Adaptation Scheme: If you have to make changes, you may be able to get this grant towards the costs of adapting your premises or buying equipment.
|Click here for detailed information on the WEA Scheme.
The Employee Retention Grant Scheme can help you to retain an employee who has acquired an illness, condition or impairment that affects their ability to carry out their job. Click here for detailed information.
The Disability Awareness Training Scheme is open to all companies in the private sector. Disability awareness training can help your staff provide the best service to customers or clients with disabilities and ensures that they also develop and maintain good working relationships with colleagues with disabilities.
|Click here for detailed information on the Disability Awareness Training Scheme.
The Wage Subsidy Scheme provides financial incentives to employers, outside the public sector, to employ certain people with disabilities who work more than 20 hours per week.
|Click here for detailed information on the Wage Subsidy Scheme.
Technology has opened up numerous possibilities for developing your own small business idea. People with disabilities who want to start their own business may be eligible for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) which encourages unemployed people (among others), and people getting Disability Allowance or Blind Person's Pension to take up self-employment.