What can your business do when recruiting a disabled employee?

It's common today for companies to recruit one or more employees with a disability.

First published on Wednesday, Jun 24, 2020

Last updated on Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024

There are many different kinds, and all sorts of people have them. So it’s very likely that at some point, the best candidate for your vacancy is going to have a disability.

But disabilities can seem hard to deal with — and they can raise lots of questions. What support do you need to offer a disabled employee? And how can you make sure you don’t discriminate against disabled applicants? Here’s our guide.

Avoiding disability discrimination during recruitment

The Equality Act 2010 provides lots of protection for people with disabilities at work. You need to make sure your recruitment process doesn’t unfairly discriminate in various ways.

Job adverts

A job ad that lists non-essential abilities as ‘requirements’ could directly or indirectly discriminate against people with disabilities. For example, if you require candidates to hold a driving license but the job can really be done without one, that’s unfair to people who can’t drive because of a disability.

Make sure your person specification doesn’t discriminate!

Application forms

Questions on applicants’ health and disabilities during recruitment are banned. So don’t include them in your application form. You can only ask about health and disability after you’ve made a job offer.

You might also consider providing application forms in other formats, such as braille or large print, so you don’t indirectly discriminate against people who can’t read your standard form.


Gaps in employment are often a reason for rejecting applicants. But when gaps relate to a disability, it’s fair to take those circumstances into account.

Job interviews

When inviting candidates to interview, you should ask them about any special requirements they have and make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them. (This doesn’t count as asking about their health or disability, but word your question sensibly.)

Reasonable adjustments might include using a venue with wheelchair access, or removing bright lights for a candidate with epilepsy.

Practical assessment

If you plan to assess candidates’ skills during selection, make sure you make reasonable adjustments for those with disabilities. Examples might include:

  • Providing large-print test papers, or allowing the candidate to answer verbally instead of in writing. (Note that the latter would only be a reasonable adjustment if the role did not require written communication skills.)
  • Allowing extra time to complete tests for candidates with dyslexia or learning difficulties.

You should also make sure methods used by external assessment companies you employ do not discriminate against disability. You are responsible for any discrimination that occurs during recruitment to your organisation.

What is a reasonable adjustment?

You are required to make adjustments to make sure workers with disabilities aren’t disadvantaged compared to those without. What is reasonable depends on the size and nature of your company — you are only expected to provide support within your organisation’s financial means.

And while you might need to make adjustments to a role for a current employee who becomes disabled, you aren’t obliged to change working hours or skill requirements to accommodate applicants. Just make sure your job and person specifications are accurate and not discriminatory.

Lucy Cobb

Employment Law Specialist

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