A staggering 86% of survey respondents with a learning disability who did not have a paid job said that that they would like one. 

There are around 800,000 working-age adults with a learning disability in the UK1, but less than a third of them (26.7%) are in paid work2.This is the lowest employment rate of any health condition or disability3, but many people with a learning disability want to work.  

Mencap wants companies to recognise the abilities of people with a learning disability, appreciate the value they bring to a business, and help make the workplace accessible

Zeeshan Sharif, an employment case worker for Mencap who supports people with a learning disability to find a job - has witnessed first-hand the barriers and challenges that exist.  

“We have people with a learning disability applying for hundreds of jobs a week and not getting any feedback. There's a huge range of candidates who just want an opportunity to work. 

“One of the people I support got a haircut and bought a suit to make a great impression for an interview . When we arrived, the interviewer took one look at us and said ‘I’m sorry, he won’t be suitable for the role.’ without even taking the candidate through any of the questions he’d prepared. I've noticed people who don’t disclose their learning disability on applications tend to get more opportunities.” 

The Work and Learning Disability Research Report by the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi), reveals that when it comes to gaining and retaining jobs, the barriers and problems faced by people with a learning disability are so prevalent that many find it impossible to get work and others leave because of poor experiences. 

The report findings also highlight how an over-complex benefits system is a significant obstacle for many people surveyed, respondents identified numerous other barriers to work. 

For many, the application process itself is a problem, with 23% of the people without a job who would like a paid job identifying inaccessible application forms as one of the things preventing them getting work.   

Of those who had found work, a number had left because of their experiences of the workplace. A lack of understanding and support from management and colleagues, inaccessible buildings and IT systems, and workplace prejudice were all cited as reasons why participants had left jobs. 

Bhisan, 37, from London, has been looking for a job for 6 years. He is desperate to work on shop floor of a supermarket and applies for 10 jobs a month.  

“I’m looking for customer service roles. I want to look after customers and keeping the shop floor tidy. I used to work on the shop floor for one of the big supermarkets but they needed someone who could also work at the till and told me I couldn’t do money jobs. So I was made to leave.”  

Robert, 64, from Bristol, has spent years facing challenges at work. “When I worked for one of the big supermarkets, I don’t feel they made reasonable adjustments for me and I felt like I was being rushed to do things, which made me anxious. I liked the job but I needed longer to complete tasks.” Robert also has experience of working in a busy kitchen. “I was struggling to do the job and one day I said to the staff it was ‘because I had a learning disability’, and their reaction was ‘that’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard’.”  

Having a job is not just a source of income and independence ; for many it also brings opportunities to make friends, develop new skills and can improve self-confidence. The survey asked people in paid work to identify the best thing about their job, the top reasons included helping other people (38%), learning new skills (36%) and nearly a third (29%) of people said work made them feel better about themselves. 

People with a learning disability have the right to work. They also have the right to equal pay, to opportunities for career progression and to the provision of support-needs at work.  

Jackie O’Sullivan, Acting Chief Executive at learning disability charity Mencap said: “It’s time that more employers realise the potential of people with a learning disability as employees.  

"We hear of many brands and companies developing corporate values about inclusivity and equality . It would be great to see them really putting this into action and show their commitment to diversity in the workplace. Now more than ever, with so many jobs unfilled, it makes sense for companies to open their minds - and their doors - to a new workforce.  

“The hospitality industry for example has been severely impacted by labour shortages since the pandemic4, yet more than a third (36%) of people we surveyed who don’t have a paid job said they wanted to work in in a bar, restaurant, café or hotel. 

“With the right support, people with a learning disability make exceptional, dedicated, hardworking employees who add real value to an organisation ,” Jackie concludes. 

Employers surveyed who had employees with a learning disability agreed. Leading pub company and brewer, Greene King, had great things to say about its experience of hiring people with a learning disability through its Supported Internship in partnership with Mencap. 

Lynne Kennedy, Talent Development Manager at Greene King, said: 

“At Greene King we’re on a journey to everyday inclusion and are committed to welcoming and offering people from all backgrounds the opportunity to develop a career in hospitality.  

“We understand the value of a diverse workforce and over the past two years we have worked with Mencap as part of our Supported Internship programme, offering work experience to interns with Special Educational Needs and an Education and Health Care Plan. The programme offers 16–24-year-olds the opportunity to develop life skills and gain valuable experience in a work environment.   

“All of our interns have been hardworking and enthusiastic, and it’s been a pleasure to see their confidence grow as they learn new skills. As a result of completing a Greene King Supported Internship, 73% have gone on to secure paid employment, which is fantastic.” 

Mencap has a wealth of information to help support businesses and provide information on the benefits of employing people with a learning disability, as well how to make recruitment processes and business practices more accessible. 

About the research: 

NDTi Work and learning disability research report  

There is evidence of a considerable ‘employment gap’ for people with a learning disability. 

In March 2022 Mencap commissioned National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) to undertake some research to better understand what people with a learning disability want when it comes to work, why so few people with a learning disability are able to access or maintain paid work, and what more can be done to help address the barriers to work for people with a learning disability in the UK. 

More than 200 people with a learning disability were surveyed about their work aspirations, and the barriers to work they had experienced. 

Other research:  





For further information or to arrange an interview with a Mencap spokesperson or case study , please contact Mencap’s media team on: media@mencap.org.uk or 02076965414 (including out of hours).         

About Mencap:    

Mencap exists to make the UK the best place in the world for people with a learning disability to live happy and healthy lives. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services, health and social care, employment and inclusion. 

What is a learning disability?      

  • A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which affects someone for their whole life. Typically, people with a learning disability need more time to learn and process information. They may need extra support to develop skills, complete tasks and interact with others, or they may have more complex needs requiring round-the clock care. The level of support needed is different for everyone and may change during a person’s lifetime.  

  • Learning disability is NOT a mental illness or a learning difficulty. Often, the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used in place of ‘learning disability’. Having a learning difficulty (such as ADHD or dyslexia ) may mean a person learns at a different pace or in a different way BUT – unlike a learning disability - it does not affect a person’s intellect.  

  • With the right support, most people with a learning disability can lead happy, healthy, independent lives. At Mencap, it’s our mission to remove societal barriers and shatter misconceptions to make this more possible for more people.  

Mencap’s guide to reporting on Learning Disability  

When it comes to creating content with people with a learning disability, we know many people feel nervous about saying and doing the wrong thing. Our guide for journalists, covers everything from up-to-date facts and figures to the right language to use. It also includes tips on how to work with people with a learning disability to gather the best content. 

Employment stories from people with a learning disability (photos and quotes)   


  • Brendan, 29, from London regularly attends his local job centre looking for paid work. Despite his ambition to run his own charity supporting people with a learning disability in Zimbabwe and a raft of qualifications in the creative industry, he’s never had a job. He says: “I’ve been told 'You’ve got unemployable written all over you. There is nothing we can offer you.' 

  • Aisha, 27, a theatre usher based in London, when growing up was told she would amount to nothing   

  • Niaz, 24, from London has a learning disability and autism and is currently applying for a job with the Metropolitan Police Community team. He’s applied for 60 jobs and still hasn’t got one yet. 

  • Mencap Myth Buster Andrew, (27) from Surrey is a talented dancer with ambitions to be on Strictly but two days a week, he swaps making moves on dance floor with working in a salon. When looking for job, Andrew and mum Donna decided to take a less conventional route, posting on their local Facebook pages to see if any hairdressers in the area were looking for an assistant. The post was shared over 700 times! 

  • Lisa Phillips, owner of Ora Hair, a sustainable salon in Banstead, Surrey, eagerly seized the opportunity to have Andrew join her team when she noticed he was seeking a hairdressing job through social media. 

About Greene King: 

Greene King is the country’s leading pub company and brewer with c.2,600 pubs, restaurants and hotels across England, Wales and Scotland. 

At Greene King we are passionate about delivering our purpose to ‘pour happiness into lives’. That’s for our customers, our team, our pub partners, our suppliers and the communities in which we live, operate and serve. Founded in 1799 with offices in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk and Burton on Trent in Staffordshire we employ around 39,000 people across the group with four divisions: Greene King pubs, Destination Brands, Partnership and Ventures, and Brewing & Brands. 

  • Greene King pubs are located where people and communities come together; pubs enjoyed in cities, towns and villages throughout the country  

  • Destination Brands is a mixture of food and drink-led brands including Hungry Horse, Farmhouse Inns, Chef & Brewer, Wacky Warehouse, and Pub & Carvery, Pub & Dining and Pub & Grill  

  • Partnerships & Ventures includes Pub Partners, which runs our tenanted and leased pubs business and Hive Franchise pubs, and our Ventures Brands which is made up of Metropolitan Pub Company, Hickory’s, Hotels Group and Crafted Pubs 

  • Brewing & Brands covers the brewing sides of the business. Quality ales are brewed at the Westgate brewery in Bury St Edmunds and the Belhaven Brewery in Dunbar. Our industry-leading portfolio includes Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen, Abbot Ale, Ice Breaker and Belhaven Best and our premium beers, Level Head and Flint Eye, brewed for the modern-day drinker. 

About National Development Team for Inclusion:    

The National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) is a social change organisation working to enable people at risk of exclusion, due to age or disability, live the life they choose. Through change and development work, research and evaluation and best practice examples, NDTi inspires and supports policymakers, services and communities to make change happen - change that leads to better lives.