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4. Understand the work barriers that impact on workers

As an employer, it is important to understand the work barriers that can impact on disabled workers and those with long-term health conditions. We will refer to both as 'workers' in this guidance.

Talking to your workers about barriers and obstacles can give you a shared understanding of how these affect all aspects of work. This impact can be on recruitment, onboarding, starting work and throughout someone’s work life.

Understanding what could prevent workers fulfilling their role, or removing obstacles, can:

  • help you recruit and retain people
  • enable workers to thrive in work
  • increase existing workers’ trust in your organisation
  • make workers feel supported to do more, rather than highlighting what they can’t do
  • improve your knowledge and understanding of how you could run your business and give you different perspectives

Identify barriers to work

Make sure workers and managers have conversations about barriers, so they are understood. These can be:

  • physical, like access into and around a building, videoconferencing without subtitles, IT that doesn’t support text reading
  • organisational, like having rigid sickness absence policies or performance targets
  • attitudinal, such as assumptions and bias-based exclusion from activity
  • social, where workers are excluded from an activity because of other people's pre-conceptions


How a director and worker's conversations helped the worker to do more

A care assistant went to a job interview for a role at a care agency.  She was returning to work after being off for a while with a health condition.

What changed

She told her interviewer, a director of the care agency, that she had ME (sometimes known as chronic fatigue syndrome). The director asked what would enable her to work at her best. They talked about the best times of day to work, how much she felt she could do and what tasks. They explored barriers to work she had experienced in the past and what her strengths were.

The benefits

They agreed on a role for her that suited both of them. Now, she has started her job with the right workplace adjustments. The director is happy with the work and the care assistant's confidence has grown.

There are more examples of possible changes to put into practice in the government service Support with employee health and disability (GOV.UK).

Find solutions to remove barriers to work

Empower workers to suggest and define solutions which:

  • suit their situation
  • are tailored to their specific working circumstances, rather than having to accept generic resolutions

Make sure you provide access to suitable advice for workers whose individual situations may be more complex. For example, you could use the Access to Work scheme or occupational health services.

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Updated: 2024-03-20