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What are my rights in work?

Photo: It's important to know what support you're entitled to as an employee

You have the right to be treated fairly and be given the same chances as someone who isn’t deaf.

This applies when you:

  • apply for a job
  • do your job
  • get promoted
  • have the same training opportunities
  • be treated fairly and be included
  • not to be harassed or bullied.

The Equality Act 2010 (Scotland, England and Wales) and the Disability Discrimination Act (Northern Ireland) give you protection and mean employers must not treat you unfairly because you are deaf and they must make reasonable adjustments to support you to work.

What reasonable adjustments could I get at work?

What is reasonable will depend on different things, like your needs and the job you are doing.

To give you some ideas here are some common reasonable adjustments for deaf people at work:

  • Good deaf awareness – Access to Work can fund disability awareness training for staff, which includes deaf awareness.
  • Regular breaks in meetings to avoid concentration fatigue.
  • Sending emails, or messages over Skype or WhatsApp instead of phone calls.
  • Colleagues learning some sign language if that’s what you use.
  • Booking meetings and training in advance to make sure there is time to arrange communication support.
Is there funding available to help me at work?/Am I entitled to Access to Work?

If the support or equipment you need is costly or it is not “reasonable” for your employer to provide it, you may qualify for funding from Access to Work. This is money from the Department for Work and Pensions in England, Wales and Scotland which you can use to pay for things like BSL interpreters or note takers. 

There’s a different scheme in Northern Ireland, you can find more information on this here.

Some employers do not know about it so you may want tell them. Find out more here.  

Do I have to tell them that I'm deaf?

You don’t have to tell an employer you are deaf when you apply for a job. However, you may need adjustments for the recruitment or interview process. Unless they know about your deafness and what support you might need they won’t be able to help. This could put you at a significant disadvantage to other applicants. 

Are they allowed to ask me about being deaf?

Before they offer you a job an employer isn’t generally allowed to ask you questions about your health or disability. They can ask questions in certain situations, for example to monitor if they are attracting candidates with disabilities or if the job needs someone with a particular disability. Some employers also have guaranteed interview schemes for disabled applicants.

Employers can ask you questions about whether you can do essential parts of the job, for example how you would communicate with customers. However, they cannot turn you down because of your disability and must consider all of the adjustments that could be made to support you to do the job.

Some employers may not have worked with a deaf person before, may not realise the different adjustments they can make, or be aware of support available. This might mean you need to help them understand your rights and what they need to do.

Top tips to help you talk to employers about your deafness
  • Know your rights according to the law – you’ve made a great start by reading this page!
  • Learn about the different tasks and activities you would be expected to do in the job – is there anything you might need to change because you are deaf?
  • Learn about other deaf people’s experiences at work and about the different adjustments and support they’ve had so they can succeed. We have examples of lots of different jobs from our Families magazine.
  • Think about what reasonable adjustments might help you.
  • Look at the different equipment available that can help at work. We have case studies of people in different jobs talking about the technology that helps them.
  • Tell employers about Access to Work. An Access to Work grant can help pay for equipment or services including communication support and deaf awareness training.
What do I do if I think an employer hasn't given me a job because I'm deaf?

Advice and support is available from our Helpline.

If you didn’t get a job and think it is because you are deaf, ask for feedback about why. Most employers will provide feedback, although some will only do it if you were interviewed. If they don’t give feedback or you aren’t happy with it then you can complain. You can complain to a more senior person or to their Human Resources (HR) department.

Your complaint should include:

  • a brief description of what happened
  • why you think it was discriminatory
  • what you want them to do about it.

You could also try asking them for information, such as how many people were shortlisted and if any of them were also deaf or had other disabilities.  

Examples of what you want them to do about it could include:

  • an apology
  • making sure interview rooms are suitable
  • change their policies or processes for future applicants
  • providing deaf awareness training for staff
  • another opportunity to interview, if they are still recruiting.

f this they don’t respond or you are unhappy with their response you may want to take the matter further. The next stage would be making a claim to an employment tribunal. It can be difficult to prove discrimination at tribunal because employers can give lots of reasons for why you didn’t get the job.  It’s important to get advice if you think this happened , if you do take action this must be done within three months of the incident happening.

If you are a deaf young person looking to make a claim to an employment tribunal relating to your deafness please contact our Helpline.