Skip to main content
Bookmark and Share

Disabled People


Definition of Disability

A disabled person is defined as someone with a physical or mental impairment that has a 'substantial' and 'long-term' effect on their ability to do normal daily activities (Equality Act 2010).

Disabled People in the Workplace

Based on the most recent census, around 20% of the population of Scotland have a long-term activity limiting health problem or disability. Among the disabled population of the country, employment rates are typically much lower than non-disabled people. Recent employment rates in Scotland show that around 40 per cent of disabled people aged 16-64 are working compared to around 80 per cent of non-disabled people. Our aim is to shift the focus of disabled people and employment, from what they can't do, to what they CAN do.




For many disabled people work is seen as a source of income, and meaningful activity. More importantly, they feel they are contributing to their society. This is a theme that focus groups around the country have consistently found:

"If you are working it makes you feel better rather than having to sit in a room because you have nowhere to go and no money to go out and do something"
(Capability Scotland focus group)

"I've always thought work is the important thing, it's how I was brought up, get out there and work"
(SAMH focus group)

"I want to move forward and get a job"
(Action on Hearing Loss Scotland focus group)

Barriers Faced

The truth is that many disabled people say that they are available for work, and that they want to work. Unfortunately, for many, they feel that this desire is not matched in the work place and that they face significant barriers when trying to enter the work force.
The barriers faced by disabled job seekers will vary from individual to individual, but some examples are included below:

  • Employer attitudes and discrimination: Most people living with a disability have experienced some form of stigma, stereotyping or discrimination. This ranges from very minor incidents to more serious cases of harassment and bullying.
  • Transportation: A lack of accessible or convenient transport may interfere with a person's ability to be independent and to function in society.
  • Physical: Structural obstacles that block mobility or access can prevent disabled people from moving in and around the workplace.  
  • Lack of or low qualifications: Disabled people are more than twice as likely as non-disabled people to have no qualifications (26% as opposed to 10%).
  • Lack of confidence: Many disabled people are anxious of how their disability will be viewed/treated by an employer or colleagues.
  • Communication: Communication barriers are experienced by people who have disabilities that affect hearing, speaking, reading, writing, and or understanding, and who use different ways to communicate than people who do not have these disabilities.

Benefits for Employers

There are a huge range of benefits for businesses in employing people with disabilities. Most importantly, employers can gain access to a wider pool of talent and skills that is largely untapped.

As well as this, schemes such as Access to Work means that businesses can receive money for any extra costs incurred as a result of employing a person with a disability.

Some other benefits of employing people with disabilities include:

  • Gain access to a wider pool of talent and skills. Overlooking someone because of their disability or health issue is a missed opportunity for businesses.
  • Improved engagement. Organisations that support disabled employees benefit from improved engagement, loyalty, productivity and retention. Staff with disabilities are among the most loyal and engaged employees.
  • Improved wellbeing and productivity. Having a more diverse work force which includes disabled staff improves general wellbeing and productivity.
  • Creating a fair workforce. Businesses employing disabled people are leading the way to a more diverse, inclusive and fairer workforce in Scotland.
  • Avoiding additional recruitment costs. Providing early, timely support to a disabled person who may be having problems at work, can improve retention rates, prevent or reduce time off work, and benefit the business by avoiding additional recruitment costs and retaining that person's expertise and skills.


Policies and Interventions

In 2016 the Scottish Government published its new Disability Delivery Plan, 'A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People', which will work to remove the barriers disabled people can face when it comes to finding and sustaining employment. To ensure that everybody who can and wants to work has the opportunity to find fulfilling jobs, the Scottish Government is working with stakeholders towards a long term ambition of halving the disability employment gap in Scotland

In the Scotland we want:

  • Disabled people are visible and participating within communities, learning and education, volunteering and employment.
  • There are equal opportunities for disabled people in education and employment.
  • Greater understanding and a positive attitude exist amongst employers and educators to disabled people.
  • There is improved awareness and understanding of discrimination, prejudice and barriers faced by disabled people including the physical environment, stigma and negative attitudes.
  • Benefits are delivered in a way that is rights-based and helps meet the additional living and mobility costs of disabled people and treats them with dignity and respect throughout the process.

In 2010, the Scottish Government published 'A Working Life for all Disabled People: The Supported Employment Framework for Scotland', which set out the government's commitment to a more consistent, person-centred approach to supporting disabled people who want to work.

The Scottish Government's Employability Framework for Scotland, 'Working for Growth' published 2012 also acknowledged the importance of raising the employment rates of disabled people and highlighted the need to improve the quality, variety and availability of employability support for disabled people. It also encouraged the continuation of activities to promote the recruitment and retention of disabled workers in public bodies and suggested that this should be supplemented by awareness raising around the benefits of a diverse workforce.

Employment support for disabled people is provided by Jobcentre Plus, Local Authorities, Third Sector Organisations and Skills Development Scotland.

In Jobcentre Plus, Disability Employment Advisers help clients to find work or to gain new skills and also provide information about disability friendly employers within their local area. They may also refer clients to a specialist work psychologist, where appropriate, or carry out an 'employment assessment'.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) also offers Access to Work. Access to Work  can pay for practical support if you have a disability, health or mental health condition to help you:

  • start working
  • stay in work
  • move into self-employment or start a business

Advice for employers seeking to recruit disabled people is available from The Alliance.

The Scottish Government offers support to employers recruiting disabled 16-29 year olds. The Scottish Employer Recruitment Incentive (SERI) offers up to £4,000 when a company commits to a new job or Modern Apprentice for a disabled person.

Open Doors - In-work Support for 16 - 29 year olds is a package of tailored 'In-Work Support' to complement and enhance SERI.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has developed an equality tool for employers and training providers in relation to the information and guidance they need to support individuals, including those with disabilities.

SDS also provide general advice and support on how to create a more inclusive workforce.

The Equality Act

Disabled people should have freedom, dignity, choice and control over their lives. We want to remove the barriers that stop people from enjoying equal access to full citizenship.

In Scotland, responsibility for issues that affect disabled people are split between issues reserved to the UK Government, and areas that the Scottish Government are responsible for.

The Scottish Government are responsible for most public services including: local councils, education, housing, social work and the NHS in Scotland.

The Equality Act (2010) is the main piece of legislation that addresses discrimination and inequality in the UK. The following are the characteristics which are protected under the Equality Act (2010):

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

The law prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination relating to any of these characteristics and individuals who feel they have been discriminated against on any of the above grounds can bring an action in court against the perpetrator. The law also prohibits victimisation of persons who have brought action against a perpetrator or given evidence in connection with proceedings under the Act.

The Act prohibits discrimination across a broad range of areas including employment, the provision of goods and services to the public and the exercise of public functions. The UK Government is responsible for equality legislation including the Equality Act.


News / Events

blog comments powered by Disqus