We want a world where people with a learning disability have the same access to meaningful paid work as everyone else.

We work with organisations to improve the employment prospects of people with a learning disability, but we know that there is a lot that needs to be done to raise awareness levels of what a learning disability is among employers.

Below are the answers to your frequently asked questions about learning disability and employment, including those you might be too afraid to ask.

If you are an employer and would like to know more about what employing people with a learning disability, you can speak to our Employment team by contacting: mark.capper@mencap.org.uk.

Also, don’t miss our guides and resources about employing people with a learning disability.

I’m confused about what a learning disability is. Does it have anything to do with mental health?

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities, which affects someone for their whole life. People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complicated information and interact with other people.

The level of support someone needs depends on the individual.

A mental health condition can be treated with medication and therapy and may therefore be temporary. It’s important to note that someone with a learning disability can also have a mental health issue, just like anyone else.

Can a person with a learning disability be paid less than the national minimum wage?

No.  A candidate with a learning disability must be paid the same as other employees for the same work. The National Minimum Wage must be paid as a minimum.  A person with a learning disability may need some more support to help them learn a new job, but they then can often do the same job as anyone else with the right support.  

Do people with a learning disability have a higher sickness rate than the general working age population?

No. Evidence shows that if placed in the right job, people with a learning disability actually have less sick days than people without a learning disability. 

What does a reasonable adjustment mean for a person with a learning disability, and will they need a lot of them?

Under the Equality Act 2010, all employers must make reasonable adjustments for disabled applicants and employee’s in order to create fair access to employment opportunities for disabled people, and to ensure that they are not seriously disadvantaged when doing their job.. A reasonable adjustment is based on understanding what will enable the employee to best perform in the role.

This could be installing a ramp for someone with a physical disability, a special keyboard, or letting them work from home.  For someone with a learning disability, a reasonable adjustment may mean, for example, making adjustments to the recruitment process. An online application and formal interview process can unfairly prohibit people with a learning disability from demonstrating their ability to fulfil a role.  

A  reasonable adjustment therefore could be  to consider other ways for people with a learning disability to apply. e.g.using work trials rather than a formal interview. The adjustments needed are not extensive, and only need to be made if applicable in the context of job. 

Does employing a person with a learning disability mean I can’t discipline them for underperformance in their job?

No. An employee with a learning disability should be treated exactly the same as any other employee. Provided that the correct HR procedures have been followed and reasonable adjustments have been made to accommodate any additional needs prior to it reaching disciplinary stage, this is perfectly acceptable.

I’ve heard about Access To Work, what is it and how can it support my wish to employ a person with a learning disability?

Access to work is a publicly funded employment support programme that aims to help those with disabilities to start or sustain employment. Access to work can help to pay for any additional support needed because of a disability or long term health condition.  It can provide practical and financial support, including:

  • Aids and equipment adaptations
  • Funding for additional travel costs to and from work e.g. taxi’s, for those who are unable to use public transport
  • An interpreter or signer for those with hearing impairments
  • Job coach to provide those with learning disabilities with practical 1:1 support at work

What types of jobs do people with a learning disability often do?

People with a learning disability are all individuals with different skills so they will be able to do many different kinds of jobs. While we would encourage you to keep an open mind about what each individual can offer, there are some general guidelines about the sort of jobs you might be able to open up to candidates with a learning disability.

How can I find out more about employing a person with a learning disability?

A good starting point with best practice guides is  Mencap’s  website or arrange to speak to someone in Mencap’s Employer Engagement team. They can offer learning disability awareness training, advice on recruitment processes and making reasonable adjustments and they may also be able to provide you with some great candidates to consider! Some employers offer work experience opportunities when they are developing their processes. This really helps build confidence and understand within recruiting managers and teams. Mencap’s employment team may be able to help with this too.

Resources for employers

Are you an employer interested in employing people with a learning disability and would like to know more? If so, see our guides and resources covering the main topics. 

Find out more

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