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.

4. Creating Employment Opportunities

It is important to identify real employment opportunities within the organisation that someone with a learning disability can consider. There is not a single definition of the type of jobs that you can consider as everyone, including those with a learning disability, is different, with different skills and experiences.

4.1 Identifying Real Jobs

If your organisation has yet to employ someone with a learning disability start recruitment with the most interested and committed departments. The employment process may have existing barriers and it is more likely that a committed department will put in the extra time and effort to overcome these. Once your organisation has identified a sustainable path to employment the process can be completed by other departments. Jobs that are commonly suitable for people with a learning disability tend to be in operational departments. The cyclical nature of operational departments makes it more likely to have fixed, repetitive tasks that are easier for some employees with a learning disability to learn.

4.1.1 Real Jobs

When considering recruiting someone with a learning disability all jobs should have real and proven demand. People with learning disabilities should only be recruited for jobs that are valued by managers and colleagues alike. Real jobs have wages paid at the going rate, and have the same terms and conditions as similar jobs.

Nevertheless, job descriptions and recruitment practices should make reasonable accommodation ensuring in particular that essential criteria are regulated when advertising so that the bar isn’t inadvertently set too high. As a result, it would be useful to regularly review job descriptions with this in mind, thinking, as you would for any candidate how skills and experience can be evidenced in a number of ways.

4.1.2 Development

Similar to roles for the rest of the workforce, each job should have the possibility of development and progression. Development in a role can include increasing working hours, gaining more responsibility, or completing more tasks.

4.1.3 What types of jobs can I consider?

To help identify the suitability of potential roles there are some general principles that can be applied within the organisation. The following are not ‘hard’ rules, and you need to look at individual skills and experiences, mindful that this may be a candidate’s first job:

  • the candidate may be starting to build their skill base and experience, making lower bands (1 – 4) more accessible as first roles;
  • jobs that have a fixed element, as people with learning disabilities can find change difficult to manage;
  • roles that do not require constant problem solving;

Some of these roles may come from within existing jobs. A suite of case studies can be found on the NHS Employers webpage.

4.2 Entry Routes to Employment

Employability scheme, internships and work experience opportunities can play an important role in securing employment for people with learning disabilities in NHSScotland. The following are examples of different employability schemes that exist in the NHS.

For the younger workforce, a Modern Apprenticeship provides the opportunity to work towards earning a vocational qualification and promotes social inclusion by offering not just meaningful employment, but qualifications whilst working. This also leads to further career prospects and opportunities to develop.

Project Search offers an internship programme supporting young people with additional needs to gain skills and experience aimed at helping them move into sustainable employment within the NHS.

The Prince’s Trust and NHSScotland launched a three-year employability partnership support on 01 October 2018. The ‘Get Into Healthcare Programme’ provides 6 week intensive pre-employment programme of accredited work-based training, targeted at young people furthest from the job market. This will support young people to gain access to entry-level roles within NHSScotland, with the opportunity for this to act as a platform for a career pathway in non-clinical and clinical roles.

‘Place and Train’ approaches such as Supported Employment, where disabled people work with support from colleagues and a job coach are considered to be particularly effective as they allow employees to be trained on the job and help employees acquire the skills they need to perform. Organisations may wish to offer work experience placements as another way for individuals with learning disabilities to understand the opportunities available in the NHS, requirements of the role, and the environment they will be working in to help inform their decision-making when choosing an employer.

The Scottish Union of Supported Employment advocates an employment model which is an evidence-based, personalised approach to supporting people with significant disabilities (i.e. learning disability) find and retain a job. Many of Scotland’s local authorities offer supported employment services and would be willing to work with health boards to help more of their service participants into work if not already doing so. Further information on the supported employment model can be found in Annex A.


Email: Emma Weedon

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