Access to Work is a government scheme with the aim of supporting disabled workers into work, or helping them remain at work.

There is no set amount for each grant given, with a limit of up to £66,000 for your business to make your workplace accessible to your disabled team member.

We feel this a really important grant to talk about, as although this help has been available for a few years, many agency owners don’t know about it. Here we explain who can apply for it, what it can be used for and how you can apply.

Access to Work: What is it?

Access to Work is a discretionary grant scheme that provides personalised support to disabled people who are:

  • in paid employment
  • self-employed
  • apprentices
  • trainees
  • supported interns
  • doing self-directed work experience
  • on Jobcentre Plus promoted work trials
  • going to a job interview

As mentioned above, there is no set amount and is dependent on what assistance is being applied for. So what can it be used for?


What can Access to Work be used for?

Your team member can get support with the extra costs of working they may have because of their disability or long-term health condition. For example:

  • aid and equipment in the workplace
  • adapting equipment to make it easier for them to use
  • money towards any extra travel costs to and from work because they can’t use available public transport
  • money towards any extra travel costs for travel costs within work
  • an interpreter or other support at a job interview where there are difficulties in communicating
  • a wide variety of support workers
  • the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service
  • other practical help at work, such as a job coach or a sign language interpreter

Support for Mental Health Conditions

If your staff member has a mental health condition, they will be offered assistance to develop a support plan. This may include steps to support them remaining in or returning to work and suggestions for reasonable adjustments in the workplace.

Examples of assistance to develop a support plan:

  • flexible working patterns to accommodate changes in mood and impact of medication
  • providing a mentor to give additional support at work
  • arranging additional time to complete certain tasks
  • providing additional training
  • regular meetings between you and your employee to talk about their concerns
  • a phased return to work, such as reduced hours or fewer days

Access to Work does not provide the support itself but provides a grant to reimburse the agreed cost of the support that is needed.


Who can get Access to Work?

To be eligible for support, a person must:

  • have a disability or long term health condition that means they need an aid, adaptation or financial/human support to do their job
  • have a mental health condition and need support in work
  • be 16 or over
  • be in, or about to start, paid employment (including self-employment)
  • normally resident in, and working in, England, Scotland or Wales – there is a different system in Northern Ireland
  • not be claiming Incapacity Benefit or Employment Support Allowance once they are in work

However, they may get it for a limited time if they are doing certain types of ‘permitted work’ to help them move off benefits completely.


How much will this cost me?

As an employer, you may have to share the cost with Access to Work if the person has been working for you for more than 6 weeks when they apply for Access to Work.

You will only have to share the cost for:

  • special aids and equipment
  • adaptations to premises or equipment

Cost share does not apply to self-employed applicants or to the Mental Health Support Service.

How much will the grant be for?

Access to Work will consider paying grants of up to 100% for:

  • self-employed people
  • people who have been working for less than 6 weeks when they first apply for Access to Work
  • the Mental Health Support Service
  • support workers
  • additional travel to work and travel in work costs
  • communication support at interviews

The level of grant will depend on:

  • whether the person is employed or self-employed
  • how long they have been in their job
  • the type of help required

What will my share of the costs be?

When cost sharing applies, Access to Work will refund up to 80% of the approved costs between a threshold and £10,000. Therefore, as the employer, you will contribute 100% of costs up to the threshold level and 20% of the costs between the threshold and £10,000.

The amount of the threshold is determined by the number of employees you have.

Number of employees Amount of threshold
0 to 49 employees nil
50 to 249 employees £500
Over 250 employees £1,000

Any balance above £10,000 will normally be met by Access to Work.

If the support also provides a general business benefit, a contribution will be sought in addition to any compulsory cost share.


What is considered a disability under Access to Work?

‘Disabled’ has the same meaning as in the Equality Act 2010. This defines disability as ‘a physical or mental condition which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [your] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.

Disabled can also include disabilities that only become apparent once in the workplace. An example of this might be where a team member started work and found that their eyesight was affected by computer screens but had not noticed this problem before they started work.


How do I apply for Access to Work?

In the first instance, your employee needs to make the application and there are a number of different ways to do this.

Apply online

You can click here to apply for Access to Work.

Apply by phone

They can also apply by phoning the Access to Work helpline on:

Telephone: 0800 121 7479
Textphone: 0800 121 7579

Relay UK (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 121 7479

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Find out about call charges


British Sign Language (BSL) video relay service

British Sign Language (BSL) video relay service if you’re on a computer – find out how to use the service on mobile or tablet

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Further information

Your employee will be asked what support they need when they apply, Access to Work will also contact you for more information.

When your employee contacts the Access to Work team, they may need:

  • their National Insurance number
  • the workplace address, including postcode
  • the name, email address and work phone number of a workplace contact, for example, their manager or you
  • a unique tax reference number (if self-employed)
  • the name of their New Enterprise Allowance mentor (if they have one)


After making an application


After your team member makes an application for Access to Work, an adviser will contact you and your employee to discuss what help might be available. Your employee may need an assessment of the workplace to assess their needs.

If your employee knows what support is needed, they do not need to have an assessment. An Access to Work adviser will discuss the award with you and your colleague to develop a tailored package of support.

If your employee needs to have an assessment, it will be carried out by telephone.

If your colleague cannot use the telephone, contact the organisation that is arranging the assessment to agree another way to have the assessment. This could be through an online British Sign Language (BSL) interpreting service or an online video service.

If your team member needs to rearrange or cancel an assessment, contact the organisation that has arranged the assessment with your employee.

Help with applying

If you need any further advice, especially on the specifics of access requirements for different disabilities, organisations such as Disability Rights UK have a wealth of information available and are always willing to help with questions on applications.

If you found this blog helpful, click here to read more DE&I related blogs
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