NHS Scotland learning disability employment: tools and guidance

Guidance and tools to support NHS Scotland to increase the number of the people employed with learning disabilities.


The Scottish Government is committed to employing more people with learning disabilities in NHSScotland organisations. This sector specific guidance has been created to build on the recommendations outlined in “The Route to Employment for People with Learning Disabilities in Scotland” published by the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability Employment Task Group in December 2018 which explores what needs to be done to create more and better opportunities for those with a learning disability.

This guidance has been produced in partnership with NHSScotland employers’ staff side and the Scottish Government, to support NHS organisations to increase the number of people with learning disabilities employed within NHSScotland organisations.

A learning disability is significant and lifelong. It starts before adulthood and affects the person’s development. This means that a person with a learning disability will be likely to need help to understand information, learn skills and live a fulfilling life. Some people with a learning disability will also have healthcare needs and require support to communicate.

But this is only part of a description. It does not capture the whole person who can be a friend, a family member, a community activist, a student, a parent, an employee or employer to name just a few roles. It is essential that we keep in mind all of those possibilities.

The principals and tools set out in this guidance may also help you in making arrangements for your organisation to become a welcoming place to work for individuals with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), particularly for those individuals whose intelligence is not impaired.

The Scottish Government has developed an implementation framework for ‘The keys to life’. The framework has four strategic outcomes which relate to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Strategic Outcome 4 of the framework aims to create Active Citizenship by ensuring that ‘people with learning disabilities are able to participate in all aspects of community and society’. Within this, two specific priorities are to:

  • Contribute to relevant outcomes across key policy areas to further develop employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities;
  • Facilitate innovative social connectedness and employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities.

Employment rates for people with learning disabilities are among the lowest, compared to all people with a disability. Tackling employment for people with learning disabilities in the NHSScotland isn’t just the right thing to do for people with learning disabilities; it’s the right thing to do for our NHS. Changing the culture around learning disabilities will not only help us to deliver better care, but also makes business sense, helping to fill vacancies and ensuring our workforce represents the population that we serve. Getting recruitment and employment of people with learning disabilities right is a step towards an accessible, and supportive working environment for everyone.

As with so many aspects of diversity, it isn’t a “quick fix”. Organisations need to first of all create the right culture and workplace for people with learning disabilities to be comfortable and safe. The aim of this toolkit is to raise awareness and break down some of the barriers that both employers and potential employees may face. This will help you to create a culture which welcomes people with learning disabilities and promotes equitable access to job opportunities across NHSScotland.


Email: Emma Weedon

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