Employers for Change
Employers for Change offers:
- a dedicated helpline giving advice and information to employers about recruiting and employing people with disabilities;
- a central web-based information resource incorporating guidance and FAQs;
- an outreach information service for employers;
- information and resource sharing services among participating organisations.
You can contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by call, text or whatsapp to 085 157 9603.
You can request a video call by email or text.
Some people and organisations advocate for ‘people first’ language, which places emphasis on the person first and the disability second i.e. a person with disabilities. On the other hand, many disabled people, say the disability is not inside of them: they are not a ‘person with a disability,’ but rather they are a ‘disabled person.’
On the other hand, some disabled people say that they are not a ‘person with a disability,’ but rather they are a ‘disabled person.’
If in doubt about which language to use, listen to how the individual talks about their disability or ask what their preference is.
There is no definitive list of conditions that constitute a disability. Disability can be visible or invisible and may or may not be disclosed.
The Disability Act (Government of Ireland, 2005) defines disability as:
“A substantial restriction in the capacity of the person to carry on a profession, business or occupation in the Irish State or to participate in social or cultural life in the Irish State by reason of an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual impairment.”
The Employment Equality Act, 1998 defines ‘disability’ as:
"the total or partial absence of a person's bodily or mental functions, including the absence of a part of a person's body, the presence in the body of organisms causing, or likely to cause, chronic disease or illness, the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of a person's body, a condition or malfunction which results in a person learning differently from a person without the condition or malfunction, or a condition, illness or disease which affects a person's thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or which results in disturbed behaviour".
The Act also states that disability “shall be taken to include a disability which exists at present, or which previously existed but no longer exists, or which may exist in the future or which is imputed to a person”.
Census 2016, and other official surveys, used the following definition of disability:
A person with one or more of the following long-lasting conditions or difficulties:
- Blindness or a severe vision impairment;
- Deafness or a severe hearing impairment;
- An intellectual disability;
- A difficulty with learning, remembering or concentrating;
- A difficulty with basic physical activities;
- A psychological or emotional condition;
- A difficulty with pain, breathing, or any other chronic illness or condition.
An acquired disability is a disability that has developed during the person’s lifetime – that is, a disability that is the result of an accident or illness rather than a disability the person was born with. The most common acquired disabilities that affect attendance at work are musculoskeletal problems (for example, back pain) and mental health issues (for example, stress, depression, anxiety).
There are many people with hidden disabilities living in Ireland. The public perception of disability is visible, yet those with a hidden disability are often misunderstood or overlooked, and in some cases not believed.
When it comes to hidden disability it's making sure that you ask everybody do they require any reasonable accommodations to do the job to the best of their ability. See our pages on inclusive recruitment and management.
The issue of disclosure is more difficult for a person with a hidden disability as their disability wouldn't be obvious to an employer.
According to Millward Brown & See Change research report “Irish Attitudes and Behaviours to Mental Health 2012”:
- 57% believe that being open about a mental health problem at work would have a negative impact on job & career prospects (up from 48% in 2010)
- 47% believe that being open about a mental health problem at work would have a negative effect on a person’s relationship with colleagues (up from 36% in 2010)
Source: See Change.
There can be many different understandings of mental health and it can mean different things to different people. Mental health is something we all have and it's an essential part of each of us.
The World Health Organisation states:
"There is no health without mental health"
Our level of mental health can change as we go through life, and even on a daily basis. There are things we can do to look after our mental health. Making sure we get enough sleep and enough exercise, making sure we eat healthily and to take time out to relax and do the things we enjoy.
One of the most important things we can do is to talk to someone. This can be a trusted friend or family member if there’s something bothering us. Talking about how we feel and sharing our thoughts and worries can help us to feel better and can help us to come up with ways of coping with our feelings and emotions.
Go to Mental Health section.
Employees with disabilities have the same employment rights as other employees under the law.
The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 outlaw discrimination on the grounds of disability in employment, including training and recruitment. However, the Acts state that an employer is not obliged to recruit or retain a person who is not fully competent or capable of undertaking the duties attached to a job.
- Follow the relevant Acts and laws including the Employment Equality Act.
- Do not discriminate on the basis of disability.
- Provide reasonable accommodations as appropriate.
- Focus on people’s capacity to do the job, where they have appropriate supports.
- Have written policies on inclusive recruitment and disclosure of disability. Include the steps you will take as an employer to support employees with acquired disabilities and state how you can help them to return and remain in work.
- Develop a PEEP (Personal Emergency Egress Plan).
- Educate your workforce.
- Ensure employees are not harassed because of their disability.
See Legislation page.
The Disability Act 2005 places a statutory obligation on public service providers to support access to services and facilities for people with disabilities.
Public service bodies are required to:
- Promote and support the employment of people with disabilities. Section 47 (1) (a) of the Disability Act requires public bodies, insofar as practicable, to take all reasonable measures to promote and support employment by them of people with disabilities.
- Comply with any Statutory Code of Practice approved by the relevant minister.
- Employ people with disabilities to make up at least 3% of the workforce.*
- Report on compliance with these obligations. Public bodies must report to statutory Monitoring Committees in their parent department every year by 31 March. For civil servants, the report is made to the Department of Finance Monitoring Committee.
* Under the Comprehensive Strategy for People with Disabilities (2015 – 2024), the Government has committed to increasing the public service employment target for persons with disabilities on an incremental basis from a minimum of 3% to a minimum of 6% by 2024.
Note To report on compliance with the 3% target, public bodies need to know how many of the staff they employ have a disability. The Disability Act 2005 definition should be used to decide whether or not an employee is considered to have a disability.
There are a number of options that you can consider for making the premises accessible on a general level or in response to a reasonable accommodation request from an employee.
These options range from implementing policies that ensure that walkways and open areas are kept free from clutter to enable easy access for wheelchair users, to using large-scale print on posters and notices to help visually impaired people, to structural accommodations such as ramps, designated parking areas and lifts.
Contact your local Workplace Contact in the DSP.
Also check out the Employee Retention Grant Scheme (ERGS). This scheme helps employers to retain employees who acquire a disability.
For new employees with disability (as opposed to an existing employee) check out the Workplace Equipment/ Adaptation Grant (WEAG) to adapt the workplace or buy specialised equipment for staff with disabilities.
No. The Irish Insurance Federation advises that once a safe working environment is provided and the employees have been given the necessary health and safety training, there is no increase in cost for employing a person with a disability.
Local and community newspapers are particularly successful for people with disabilities, but there are other resources, such as:
- Jobs boards
- Local EmployAbility service provider
- Family and friends of current employees
- Jobs clubs
- Shop windows and public notice boards
- Word of mouth
- Your business website
- Websites of NGOs e.g. Open Doors Initiative
You cannot discriminate based on disability grounds, but you are not obliged to employ someone who cannot do the job properly. However, if a person with a disability would be capable of doing the job if reasonable accommodation were provided, and providing the cost is reasonable for you, there should be scope for accommodating the person.
You can ask applicants if they have any condition that may affect how they do the job and what accommodation, if any, they need to enable them to perform the tasks involved in the job. Applicants are only required to disclose issues that are relevant to the job.
Disability in employment
As with all staff members, the same terms and conditions apply.
I recruited a new employee and now it has come to light that they have a disability. Should they have told me before accepting the job?
The employee is under no obligation to inform you of their disability. When a disability does become known, you as an employer are obliged to make reasonable accommodation.
It is best practice when you are advertising, recruiting and interviewing to make sure that the job specification is clear and specific.
How can I help a new or existing employee with a disability feel comfortable in their work environment?
Induction is key to gradually introducing a new or existing employee who has acquired a disability, to their work environment. There is more information on induction and other practices in our Managing disability in the workplace section.
An individual with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation at any time during the application process or during the period of employment. As a general rule the request should be made when they know that there is (or may be) a workplace barrier that is (or will) impede them, due to a disability, from effectively competing for a position, performing a job, or gaining equal access to a benefit of employment.
At a time of their choosing, individuals should let the employer know that an adjustment at work is needed for a reason related to a disability (see section on disclosure). The request need not refer to the employment equality legislation or use the term ‘reasonable accommodation’. A request may be made verbally or in writing.
If the need for accommodation is not obvious, once the disability has been disclosed, the employer may ask the individual for related documentation, so that any reasonable accommodation required can be agreed by all concerned. All accommodation requests must be based on a clear and legitimate work-related requirement.
An employer cannot ask for documentation that is unrelated to determining the existence of a disability and the necessity for an accommodation. Nor can an employer ask for validating documentation when both the disability and the need for reasonable accommodation are obvious. It may be necessary to research the accommodation options available.
A sensible, reasonable and objective approach to this situation should be adopted. An employee looking for particular accommodations should justify their choice and as ‘experts’, their views should be taken into account by the employer. The employer may offer alternative suggestions for accommodations to remove the workplace barrier. Where there are a number of options, the employer may choose among accommodations as long as the chosen accommodation is effective in removing the workplace barrier and this is accepted by the employee concerned.
Where there is doubt, a trial arrangement needs to be considered. If there are two possible accommodations, and one costs more, or is more difficult to provide, the employer may choose the one that is less expensive or easier to provide, as long as it is effective.
An employee who has a disability has reasonable accommodations but they do not want to disclose their disability to their colleagues. May I tell other employees that someone is receiving an accommodation?
An employer may respond to a question about why a co-worker is receiving different or special treatment by highlighting the policy of assisting any employee who encounters difficulties in the workplace. The employer may also find it helpful to point out that many of the workplace issues encountered by employees are personal, and that, in these circumstances, it is policy to respect employee privacy. An employer may be able to make this point effectively by reassuring the employee asking the question that their privacy would similarly be respected if they were experiencing difficulties for whatever reason.
Does an employer have to provide a reasonable accommodation to enable an employee with a disability to have equal access to information communicated in the workplace to able-bodied employees?
Employers must ensure that employees with disabilities have access to and understand information that is provided to comparable employees without disabilities. Access to such information needs to take account of any communication/comprehension difficulties an individual may have. You can access additional information on assistive technology here.
If you, as an employer, have to make changes to the workplace or work practices in order to accommodate a disabled employee, the demands should be ‘reasonable’ and should not impose a ‘disproportionate burden’ on you. In other words, the changes and the costs should be realistic for the business to bear.
In determining whether the changes would impose a disproportionate burden, several things are taken into account:
- the financial and other costs involved;
- the scale and financial resources of your business; and
- the possibility of obtaining public funding or other assistance.
If you and your employee can’t agree a reasonable solution, the normal dispute resolution steps may be followed. For example, the employee may lodge a complaint through the WRC (Work Relations Commission).
The duty to provide reasonable accommodation is ongoing during the employment of a person with a disability.
Yes, there are several supports available to employers. See list below or contact your local Workplace Contact in the DSP.
Disability Awareness Training Support Scheme (DATSS)
This scheme is for employers to provide training and awareness. Grant assistance of 90% of eligible training to max €20,000 in year 1 and 80% in subsequent years.
Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS)
This scheme (WSS) provides financial incentives to private sector employers to employ people with a disability who work 21 hours per week or more, up to a maximum of 39 hours per week.
The Reasonable Accommodation Fund
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DESP) is responsible for providing labour market services for disabled people, assisting them with finding paid employment or preparing them for employment through a training or employment programme.
Workplace Equipment/ Adaptation Grant (WEAG)
Grant assistance is available for employers, employees and self-employed disabled people who need to adapt the workplace or purchase specialised equipment for staff with disabilities. As an employer you may be able to get a grant towards the costs of adapting premises or equipment for an employee with a disability.
Employee Retention Grant Scheme (ERGS)
This scheme assists employers to retain employees who acquire an illness, condition or impairment which impacts on their ability to carry out their job.
JobsPlus is an employer incentive which encourages and rewards employers who offer employment opportunities to the long term unemployed including people with disabilities, who are in receipt of jobseekers benefit, jobseekers allowance or signing for jobseekers credits but NOT disability allowance.
More information on these can be found in the Grants section.
The Employability service is an employment and recruitment service aimed at assisting people with a disability to secure and maintain a job.