BLOG | Your rights when it comes to Access to Work

23rd September 2020

In our latest blog, Public Affairs Assistant Hannah Brisbane, covers what you need to know about your rights when it comes to mental health and access to work, particularly during the pandemic.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the world has changed in a number of ways. One of the most common changes has been to the way we work, with many of us now working from home. While home working has a number of benefits – no more commutes, more time with family, saving money – it has also created new challenges.

If you have a disability, physical health condition or mental health problem which makes it difficult for you to do your job, you might be eligible for support from the UK Government’s Access to Work programme. Before the coronavirus, the employment support programme had already provided personalised practical and financial support to 36,000 people to help them start or stay in work. For example, grant funding was available for things like special office equipment, a support worker and disability awareness training for colleagues. The scheme also helped people with a mental health problem develop a support plan for going in, remaining in or returning to work by coming up with reasonable adjustments for the workplace, like flexible working patterns.

Recently, the Department for Work and Pensions has adapted Access to Work in response to the changing circumstances we find ourselves working in. From now on, Access to Work will also provide funding for:

  • Items and services that make home working easier, such as a screen reader or video interpreting services
  • Taxi fares if you still need to travel to and from your workplace but have a health condition that prevents you from taking public transport
  • Confidential support and advice from the Mental Health Support Service if you have a mental health problem and are anxious about returning to work

Once you apply for Access to Work, an adviser will get in touch to discuss what type of support is available; it’s different for each individual. You might need an assessment to gauge what support you require – these are currently being held over the phone. If you already know what support you require then you might not need an assessment. Funding can be fast-tracked if you are in a clinically vulnerable group.

If you already receive support from Access to Work and you’re working circumstances have changed (for example, if you’re now working from home), you have to let Access to Work know if you’re needs have changed too. You can get in touch about any changes by calling the Access to Work helpline

You can find out more about Access to Work and how to apply at:  

Access to Work helpline
Telephone: 0800 121 7479
Textphone: 0800 121 7579
Relay UK (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 121 7479
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

British Sign Language (BSL) video relay service

To use this you must:

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

The UK Goverment have produced an easy to read guide on Access to Work.