Working with a disability


If you have a disability, there are supports to help you find and keep a job.

Some of these supports are for people with disabilities who are already working. Other supports are for people with disabilities who are unemployed.

If you have a disability, you have the same employment rights as other employees.

Looking for work

Whether you are looking for a job for the first time or after a break, you should think about your skills and how your disability might affect the kind of work you are applying for.

A lot of employers have equal opportunities policies in place, making it clear that they welcome applications from suitably qualified people with disabilities.

You should be aware of your rights and the obligations potential employers have towards you under equality legislation. It is up to you to decide whether to tell potential employers about your disability, particularly if your disability is not obvious (such as a chronic illness or a mental illness).

While you may have your reasons for keeping your disability private, your employer cannot accommodate any special needs you have if they don't know about your condition.

There are support schemes and training opportunities available to you if you have a disability and are looking for work.

Supports and training

These supports include helping you find a job and preparing you for work through training or employment programmes (or both). Employment supports are provided by the Department of Social Protection.

You can also do specific skills training and traineeships if you are unemployed and are re-entering the workforce. Training for people in employment is offered through apprenticeships and in-company training. People with disabilities are encouraged to make use of all these training options.

If you are completing a training course and need more intensive support than would normally be available, the course will be delivered by specialist training providers. Some key features of specialist training include adapted equipment, a more individual approach and longer training sessions.

Job Interview Interpreter Grant Scheme

If you are looking for a job and are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment, you can apply for funding to have a sign language interpreter or other interpreter attend a job interview with you. Funding is also available to cover the costs of an interpreter during an induction period when you start work.

EmployAbility Service

The EmployAbility Service can help you find work. It offers ongoing support once in work, including job coaches. The programme operates through organisations around the country.

Disability payments and work

If you are getting certain disability payments, for example, Disability Allowance (DA) and Blind Pension (BP), you may be allowed to work and keep your payment.

An employer can apply for the Wage Subsidy Scheme whether or not an employee keeps their entitlement to DA or BP.

If you are getting Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension and you want to return to work you may qualify for Partial Capacity Benefit.

Employment schemes

There are employment schemes and other supports to encourage long-term unemployed people to return to work. Each scheme has different rules, so it is important to check the detailed information about each scheme and whether your social welfare payment may be affected.

  • The Community Employment scheme helps the long-term unemployed and people with disabilities to get back to work.
  • The Community Services Programme aims to address disadvantage by supporting local community activity and providing local employment opportunities for certain groups of people, including people with disabilities.
  • The Rural Social Scheme provides income support for farmers and fishermen who are receiving long-term social welfare payments such as disability payments.
  • The Work Placement Experience Programme (WPEP) gives people who have never had a job or who have lost their job a chance to get work experience. You can qualify for WPEP if you are getting Disability Allowance.

Other employment support

If you have a disability and want to start your own business, you may be eligible for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance. The scheme encourages unemployed people, lone parents and people getting Disability Allowance or Blind Person's Pension to take up self-employment.

Working with a disability

If you develop a disability

If you have a job and become disabled (for example, through an accident or illness) you may want to return to work at some time. In this situation, it is important to sit down with your employer and discuss your options.

Depending on your disability and the type of job you have, it may be easy for you to return to work. Your disability may have no impact on the type of job you have or your ability to do it.

However, you may need your workplace to be adapted, or you may need special equipment to help you do your job. If your disability prevents you from returning to your previous job, there are options available – see ‘Looking for work’ above.

If your disability changes or you need more support

If your disability has changed or is progressive, you should sit down with your employer and discuss your options and needs. Some of the issues you might discuss include:

  • If your existing job needs to be further adapted
  • If changes are required to the workplace
  • Whether your working conditions and work practices will need to change

Options at work

If your disability does get worse, there are often ways in which your employer can help accommodate this. It does not always mean that you will have to give up your job.

Employers are obliged to make reasonable accommodations for staff with disabilities. Often, you can continue working in an adapted workplace, or with equipment and changes to your work practice and conditions of employment.

Some possible options for you and your employer include:

Partial re-deployment

This means you will continue doing part of your original job (either part-time or with the addition of new tasks). You can drop certain tasks and take on others that are currently carried out by other colleagues.


If you are unable to do your previous job, but you could carry out another role in the organisation, you and your employer can consider re-training and re-deployment.

Flexible working arrangements

If you have a disability, being able to work part-time, flexitime, job share or work from home may be a deciding factor in whether you can resume your job.

Adapting the workplace and assistive technology

An accessible workplace and assistive technology can allow you to do your job without difficulty. The Workplace/Equipment Adaptation Grant provides funding towards the costs of modifications or special equipment, allowing you to take up an offer of employment or to remain in employment.

Personal Reader Grant

If you are blind or visually impaired and you need help with job-related reading, you may be entitled to a grant for a personal reader.

Supports for employers

There are a number of support schemes available to you if a member of your staff acquires a disability, or if you hire a new staff member who has a disability. These employment supports are provided by the Department of Social Protection.

  • Workplace/Equipment Adaptation Scheme can help you financially if you need to make changes to your workplace or need to buy new equipment to support a staff member who has a disability.
  • The Employee Retention Grant Scheme can help you to retain an employee who has acquired an illness, condition or impairment that affects their ability to carry out their job.
  • The Disability Awareness Training Scheme is open to all companies in the private sector. Disability awareness training can help your staff provide the best service to customers or clients with disabilities and maintain good working relationships with colleagues with disabilities.
  • The Wage Subsidy Scheme provides financial incentives to employers, outside the public sector, to employ certain people with disabilities who work between 21 and 39 hours a week.

Your employment rights

If you have a disability, you have the same employment rights as other employees. You are also protected under a number of different conditions. It is useful to be aware of these whether you have a job or are looking for a job.

These include:

Equality legislation

It is illegal to discriminate against someone in employment based on a disability. This includes training and recruitment.

However, an employer is not obliged to recruit or keep a person who is not fully capable of doing their job.

This is outlined in the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015.

If you have a mental health difficulty there are 2 booklets which may help you understand these laws better:

Reasonable accommodation

Employers are required to take reasonable steps to accommodate the needs of current and future employees with disabilities.

Reasonable accommodation is where an employer makes a change to how a job is carried out or makes changes to the workplace to allow the employee with a disability to fully do the job and enjoy equal employment opportunities. You can read about reasonable accommodation on the Employers for Change website.

However, under EU legislation, employers are not obliged to provide special treatment or facilities if the cost of doing so is excessive or disproportionate.

Health and safety

Employers must ensure the safety, health and welfare of all employees in their workplace. Employers must make accommodations for employees with disabilities. Some specific adjustments employers may need to consider include:

  • Doors
  • Passageways
  • Staircases
  • Showers
  • Washbasins
  • Toilets
  • Workstations

This is outlined under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

Public service quota

Public bodies have an obligation to consider and respond to the needs of people with disabilities. 3% of jobs in public service bodies (local authorities, civil service, the Health Service Executive) are reserved for people with disabilities.

This is outlined in the Disability Act 2005.

Making a complaint about discrimination at work

If you think you have been discriminated against because of your disability in work, vocational training or access to employment, you can make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission using the online complaint form.

You can also read or download a free guide to taking an employment equality case from the Community Law and Mediation (CLM) website. CLM also offers free legal information, advice and mediation services.

More information

AHEAD (Association for Higher Education Access and Disability) has information for employees and information for employers, including information on reasonable accommodations in the workplace and their 6-month paid work placement scheme for graduates with disabilities.

The Employers for Change website also gives information on:

  • Understanding disability
  • Inclusive recruitment
  • Managing disability in the workplace
  • Reasonable accommodation
  • Health and safety

You can also contact Employers for Change for advice by email, phone and text.

The Health and Safety Authority has produced a guide to inclusive health and safety practices for employees with disabilities (pdf).

'Just Ask - a Handbook for Employers and Employees' (pdf) is a booklet describing supports that can be provided for employees with mental health difficulties. It is available on the website of Eastern Vocational Enterprises (E.V.E.).

If you have a mental health difficulty, there are 2 booklets:

  1. Equality and mental health: what the law means for your workplace
  2. Equality and mental health: how the law can help you.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission provides information about equality in work and discrimination issues.

Page edited: 25 April 2023