Do you employ people with a learning disability?

Written by
Mark Capper

07 Nov 2016

07 Nov 2016 • by Mark Capper

Override the uncertainly and reap the benefits

A combination of employer uncertainty over what people with a learning disability are capable of and a failed system of benefits, and a lack of Government support has led to such a woefully low figure. However, this untapped employment pool offers incredible benefits to a company.

Employers have told us that people with a learning disability tend to make harder working employees, with a better willingness to learn. They are more loyal, take less sick leave and are far more likely to stay in a company for the long term; helping to cut down on recruitment costs. Not only that, but having employees who have a learning disability has been seen to boost staff morale and job satisfaction, as well as a positively improving a company’s overall image both externally and internally.

We’ve worked with hundreds of employers to become more inclusive in who they look to employ, and the reaction is overwhelmingly positive. For companies who haven’t considered this and want to tap into the many benefits of broadening recruitment to include people with a learning disability, it’s worth assessing the best way to make your application and interview process is accessible to everyone. 

How to recruit people with a learning disability

Legally speaking, The Equality Act 2010 requires every employer to make reasonable adjustments for applicants with a disability. For a person with a learning disability those adjustments are not necessarily physical, but they will require you to readdress how you currently approach some of your recruitment stages. 

People with a learning disability are very unlikely to be selected for a job through the standard recruitment process. When applying they may struggle with online application forms; where possible we would suggest making reasonable adjustments to the process. For example, allowing CV applications will help to make the application stage a lot more accessible to people with a learning disability. Alternatively, if this is not possible at first, charities such as Mencap can initially work with you to provide suggested candidates for roles.                       

You may also need to be more flexible with the type of interview required for the position. People with a learning disability can struggle with interviews, and may find contextualising scenarios difficult in an interview setting. The best alternative to a sit down interview is a work trial. Not only does this offer the candidate a chance to show their skills in a more practical setting; it also allows a company to see how the candidate performs in the actual role, as well as how well they fit within the working environment and team. 

If the candidate is then selected for a paid position, employers will need to assess if there are any additional needs for the new starter before their start date – for example if they require additional software or support.

Once within the organisation, there is no extra requirement of time and effort from the employer. Should additional training or support be needed, support providers like Mencap can help. Through the Governments Access To Work scheme, Mencap can offer job coaches to offer any supplementary support and training that an employee with a learning disability might need.

Learning Disability Work Experience Week

In my experience, once an organisation starts to broaden its recruitment, and starts employing people with a learning disability – it is something that becomes a very essential part of the company’s future employment plans. They experience the benefits of a more diverse workforce and become real advocates to persuade other companies to do the same.

What often holds people back is the lack of understanding around learning disability. Recruiters, like much of the public, are simply unaware as to what people with a learning disability can achieve. It’s why Learning Disability Work Experience Week (LDWEW) has been so popular as it gives employers a chance to gain that understanding over a short period.

Each year during LDWEW we see people being offered full time paid positions, and each year these people flourish in their new roles. It’s not just a good opportunity for them, but for the companies that take part – which continues to grow in numbers each year; that’s no coincidence.

We’ll have been running LDWEW Week for 4 years this year – and in all the schemes history we have many compliments from companies that take part, but never a complaint! 


Learning Disability Work Experience Week (running 7-11th November 2016) is geared to raise the awareness of learning disability across the UK. This year they're celebrating friendships and relationships.

Love this article? You may also be interested in this... Read our exclusive interview with Rob Walker, Mencap's group head of resourcing, about how to build inclusive recruitment.