Scroll down

Access to Work quick guide

This guide gives an overview of the Access to Work service provided by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Access to Work supports staff with a disability, illness or health condition (this includes mental health), who are:

  • in paid employment or self-employed
  • about to start employment (applications are accepted 12 weeks before starting a role)
  • in need of help at a job interview with an employer
  • about to start a work trial
  • about to start a Department for Education-supported internship or traineeship
  • about to start self-arranged work experience or young person’s work experience
  • serving an apprenticeship

Access to Work can support staff where their individual needs within the workplace are above and beyond the employer’s reasonable adjustments. For further details on reasonable adjustments please see the GOV.UK guide.

Access to Work recognises that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. Barriers can be physical, or they can be caused by people’s attitudes to difference, like assuming disabled people can’t do certain activities within the workplace. This approach helps Access to Work recognise barriers that make life harder for disabled people. Removing these barriers creates equality and offers disabled people more independence, choice and control. In some cases, this may mean only slight adjustments to the working environment.

There are different elements of Access to Work, including:

  • communication support at interview
  • travel to work, including travel in work
  • support worker
  • adaptations to premises and equipment
  • special aids and equipment

To receive support through Access to Work, staff must:

  • be disabled, or have an illness or a health condition that impacts on
    their ability to work
  • be 16 or over (there’s no upper age limit for support as long as
    employment is likely to continue)
  • have the right to work in Great Britain
  • be living in Great Britain


Someone is disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities. Staff whose disability, illness or health condition does not substantially affect their normal day to day activities but has a considerable adverse effect on their ability to do their job can also apply.

How to apply

A staff member must contact Access to Work directly. Managers may direct staff to Access to Work if they think it is appropriate but cannot start the application process for them. Contact details can be found on the Access to Work website.

An applicant’s initial point of contact is with an Access to Work advisor. At the start of the application, advisors are appointed to manage the case and liaise with the applicant, employer and any third-party assessors (if required) to determine the best way to help.

Applications are closed if there has been no contact with the applicant after three attempts, if a letter goes unanswered for ten days, or if an applicant wishes to end their application at any point. When direct information is requested from either a staff member or manager, this should be provided within 72 hours, or an application may be closed.


Access to Work will need to assess how a member of staff’s condition affects the way they can or will do their job, which may include arranging an independent holistic workplace assessment. This will be with a specialist for an objective analysis of how the member of staff’s condition will affect their ability to do a job. Access to Work will not fund costs of diagnosis for conditions or disabilities.

Access to Work will then write to both the employee and manager with suggested alterations, adaptions, or equipment. Employers have a legal responsibility to make adequate provision for disabled people present on their premises under legislation including:

  • Building (Fourth Amendment) Regulations, 1985
  • Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) Act, 1976
  • Health and Safety Acts and other Regulations
  • Equality Act 2010
  • England and Wales – Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The Access to Work assessment process must not be delayed where an employer has to act upon health and safety, workstation assessment or Equality Act 2010 responsibilities. Managers must consider the suggestions that Access to Work makes. Applicants cannot appeal against a level of reward, but for each award, an applicant is allowed one reconsideration by a different assessor. Reviews take place, at a minimum, annually.


The average costs of equipment or adjustments suggested by Access to Work is £70. However, where there are higher costs, Access to Work will provide some of the funding. If an employee has been working for six weeks or more when they apply, the employer will need to pay a share of costs if the support includes special aids and equipment or adaptions to premises/equipment. The threshold for University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) is £1,000.

This means:

  • UHB will pay 100% if the total cost is below £1,000
  • between £1,000 and £10,000, Access to Work will refund up to 80% per cent of the approved costs
  • from £10,000 up to the £42,100 (the current per-person per-annum cap), Access to Work will refund 100%

Access to Work will consider paying grants of up to 100% of the cost of provision for certain groups:

Self-employed people

People who have been working for less than six weeks when they first apply

Access to Work will also consider paying grants of up to 100% of the cost of certain types of provision, including:

  • the mental health support service
  • support workers
  • additional travel to and in work
  • communication support at interviews

When UHB must pay towards these costs, this will come from the budget of the staff member's department.

Example 1

The cost of adaptions or equipment is £250. This falls below the £1000 threshold and UHB must pay £250.

Example 2

The cost for adaptions or equipment is £10,000. Minus the threshold UHB pays of £1,000, this totals £9000. This is multiplied by the employers’ contribution (Access to Work will pay 80%), so we calculate £9,000 x 20%. This equals £1,800. Therefore, UHB would pay £2,800 (£1,000 + £1,800) and Access to Work would pay £7,200

Example 3

The cost for adaptions or equipment is £35,000. The first £10000 is split as per example 2. The remaining costs above £10,000, i.e. £25000, are met by Access to Work. UHB would pay £2,800, and Access to Work would pay £32,200.


Once the business case is approved, the required support can be purchased. Access to Work will ask for a timeframe of equipment, adaptions or alterations to be put in place and will provide suggested suppliers and specifics about equipment. If adaptions require a longer time frame to complete, for example adaptions to premises, Access to Work may be able to provide interim support while the adaptions are being made.

Access to Work process

The process starts with the individual making an online, telephone or postal application, where they will provide contact information, and answer general questions about their health condition and employment status for an initial eligibility review.


  • The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) may reject provision after considering the customer's eligibility and employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments
  • The customer would then be notified that their application has not been approved


  1. DWP approves provision (element and/or workplace assessment) after considering the customer’s eligibility and employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments
    • There will be an assessment to explore workplace-related barriers to employment and make recommendations on how these can be overcome
    • In some, but not all cases, the outcome of an assessment can be the recommendation for provision of one or more elements
    • If, after the assessment, no elements are approved, the customer will be notified
  2. If one or more elements are approved, the customer is notified and a grant is approved to cover all or some of the costs of the approved provision
  3. The customer or their employer commissions the approved provision and submits invoices relating to approved grants to the DWP
  4. Customer receives the approved and commissioned provision
  5. DWP pays the invoices relating to approved grants. In some cases a DWP payment is not required, for example because provision can be provided at no cost, or the employer covers the relevant costs
  6. DWP schedules reviews to ensure the provision is still adequate and to check that the customer is still eligible

Further information

For further information and support, please contact

For information about UHB’s disability or long-term health condition staff network, please contact

Full details of the access to work process can be found in GOV.UK's staff guide.

Further information on reasonable adjustments is also available on the NHS Employers website.

Back to top