Hearing Link

Your rights at work

For many of us, work (whether paid or voluntary) takes up many hours a day for a significant part of our lives. There appears to be a certain amount of discrimination by employers against employing people with a hearing loss or any other disability.

The employment rate for disabled people is less than half that of non-disabled people. Wages are 20% lower for disabled men and 12% lower for women (Report of the National Equality Panel January 2010).

If we have a job, we may be unwilling to admit we have hearing loss. 64.7% of men who are hard of hearing are afraid to let their colleagues at work know about it (Liz Daniels: The Psychological Effects of Acquired Hearing Loss on males between the Ages of 30 and 65 in the Workplace).

The Equality Act

If you have difficulty carrying out normal everyday tasks, such as using the telephone or communicating in a busy meeting, you are protected by the Equality Act.The new Equality Act 2010 replaces the old Disability Discrimination Act 1995. It still requires employers to make reasonable adjustments for deaf and hard of hearing people so that we are not put at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ with non-disabled people.

For example, it is reasonable for us to have communication support during a training day. We are not responsible for the costs of any reasonable adjustments that are made. These are borne by employers and by Access to Work in proportion to the size of the employer e.g. the bigger the employer the higher percentage of the costs they pay.

Useful further information

Access to Work (AtW)

ATW can help you if your health or disability affects the way you do your job. It gives you and your employer advice and support with any extra costs which may arise because of your needs. ATW legislation is always changing, so for up to date details, please visit www.direct.gov.uk/accesstowork

ATW can help by paying towards any equipment you will need at work to continue in your role. e.g. amplified or screen phone, textphone or pagers. It can also be used for communication support e.g. speech to text (STTR) or lipspeaker.

Who can get Access to Work?

You may be able to get ATW if you have a condition or disability that has a long term effect (over 12 months) – which of course deafness does – which has an effect on how you do your job and what you need to do it. Specifically if you are:

  • In a paid job
  • Unemployed and about to start a job
  • Unemployed and about to start a work trial
  • Self-employed

How to contact Access to Work

Contact the Disability Employment Advisor (DEA) at your local Jobcentre. If you are eligible you will be sent an application form to fill in and send back. Once completed an ATW adviser will contact you. They will speak to both you and your employer to decide what support you need.

Your employer’s responsibilities

It is the responsibility of your employer (or you if you are self-employed) to arrange the agreed support and/or to buy the necessary equipment. Your employer (or you if self employed) can then claim money back from ATW. The level of costs sharing between ATW and your employer will be agreed by the ATW adviser.

Useful information about Access to Work

More information

Useful organisations to contact for advice and guidance.

  • Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) Acas offers an independent and trusted service for dealing with disputes between groups of workers, their representatives and their employers.
  • Benefits and Work An organisation that helps people to get the benefits they’re entitled to, including Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Incapacity Benefit (IB).
  • Business Disability Forum Business Disability Forum is a leading employers’ organisation focused on disability as it affects business. It educates employers in the things they need to know to make it easier to employ and do business with disabled people.
  • Citizens Advice Bureau The Citizens Advice service helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice, and by influencing policymakers.
  • Industrial deafness Information and advice on industrial deafness.

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