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.

1. Introduction

This toolkit has been developed to support organisations in NHSScotland to increase the number of people with learning disabilities employed by them.

It addresses the specific commitment within the Scottish Government publication: A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: Our Delivery Plan to 2021 for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for NHSScotland to deliver a Learning Disability Employment Programme.

The toolkit should be read in conjunction with the Embracing Equality, Diversity and Human Rights in NHSScotland Partnership Information Network Policy (PIN Policy).

1.1 Context

The Fairer Scotland for Disabled People delivery plan has been developed as an outcome to address inequalities by recognising and valuing diversity, promoting a patient-focused approach, and involving people in the design and delivery of health care. It is based on the social model of disability rather than the medical model and aims to support societal changes to improve the lives of deaf and disabled people in Scotland. The Scottish Government is also committed to halve the disability employment gap and has published A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People; Employment Action Plan which sets out our belief that the public sector has a key role in supporting our ambitions though recruiting and retaining disabled people.

As set out in the PIN Policy, NHSScotland Boards have a duty to comply with the existing equality and human rights legal framework including the Equality Act 2010 which covers nine protected characteristics age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. Learning disabilities are a subsection of the disability protected characteristic and key points of the Act relevant to learning disabilities include:

  • The Act puts a duty on you as an employer to make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff to help them overcome disadvantage resulting from their impairment;
  • The Act allows you to take positive action if you think that employees or job applicants who share a particular protected characteristic are disadvantaged, or if their participation in an activity is disproportionality low.

1.2 Principles

Beyond compliance with national policy and legislative obligations, there are clear organisational and societal benefits associated with implementing and maintaining good employment practices in relation to equality, diversity and human rights. Employing people with learning disabilities supports a holistic approach to healthcare by providing all members of the public as service users the opportunity to work in the service.

Evidence demonstrates that work is generally good for physical health, mental health and wellbeing. The nature and quality of the work is important. Jobs should be safe and take account of individuals’ needs by applying reasonable adjustments, as appropriate, noting that not everyone will need adjustments. Employing people with learning disabilities is beneficial for a number of reasons:

  • Meaningful employment can support positive health outcomes;
  • People with learning disabilities provide an untapped resource for employers with a high proportion of people who want to work;
  • Increasing the employment of people with learning disabilities will not only benefit the individual, but also have benefits to the wider community and economy;
  • People with learning disabilities grow in their confidence when they are employed, supporting them to become more independent;
  • The act of going to work each day adds security and routine to people’s lives and a sense of belonging, both to the organisation and to society;
  • Having a job can be fundamental to building confidence and providing the opportunity to make friends and build a social life.

1.3 Employer Benefits

The benefits of employing people with learning disabilities includes recruiting from a larger talent pool. Increasing diversity can also add value to the organisation and contribute to employee wellbeing and engagement. As the lead strategic partner to the Scottish Government in the delivery of learning disability strategy and policy, the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD) is committed to finding new and better ways to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities. This video produced by SCLD explores the value of employing people with learning disabilities – for both employees and employers alike.

Hiring a more diverse workforce that includes people with learning disabilities is part of a good recruitment and retention strategy, reduces costs of staff turnover and employers enjoy reduced vacancy rates.

Expenditure on staff turnover can be up to £30,000 per employee when taking into consideration that it takes on average 27 weeks to gain and train a new employee to reach optimum productivity. Disability confident employers save the time and costs of rehiring new staff in areas where they employ people with learning disabilities. It also enables employing organisations within NHSScotland to reflect the populations they serve.


Email: Emma Weedon

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