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Want to stay on the right side of the law? We support businesses and public authorities and help them to promote good practice.

Recruiting people with disabilities

Recruiting and retaining people with disabilities

As an employer, you should follow fair recruitment and selection procedures as outlined in the Recruitment, selection and promotion section of our website.

In addition to following those general procedures, you should also be aware of other important matters that you either must do, or should consider doing, when recruiting people with disabilities.

These are: your need to comply with the reasonable adjustment duty, some additional good practice steps you should take and the opportunities for taking positive action that are open to you. These matters are discussed in further detail below:


Public authorities and positive action

Although the guidance given here applies to all employers in the public, private and third sectors, the section on taking positive action is particularly relevant to public authorities. In the case of most public sector employers, giving sincere consideration to taking positive action will also assist them to comply with their obligations under the public sector equality and disability duties, section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and section 49A of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The latter are essentially duties to consider taking positive action.

Although employers in the private and third sectors are not under any statutory duty to consider taking positive action, we strongly recommend that they do so.

Recruiting people with disabilities - Making it work

One in five people in Northern Ireland live with a disability. They are a very diverse group with a wide range of abilities, skills and aptitudes. Many people with a disability are eager to work and have skills needed by our economy. However, despite this pool of talent, the employment rate for disabled people is currently 37.3% in Northern Ireland.

The following stories tell the real experiences of disabled people in Northern Ireland who have availed of employment support services. We hope their stories will inspire employers to enhance their workforces, providing more and better jobs for disabled people.

Case Studies


Ben RashbrookBen Rashbrook and the Cedar Foundation

Ben Rashbrook suffered serious injuries including bleeding on the brain after an accident in which he was knocked off his bicycle in 2012. He joined the Cedar Foundation’s ‘Inclusion Works Programme’ in the summer of 2019 following a referral from the Community Brain Injury Team in the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust.

Ben is now living his dream as a self-employed business owner, he established ‘R Supplements Ltd, a sports supplements business at the end of 2019. Speaking about his experience Ben said: “I set a goal for myself to start up my own business. I already had the idea for the business and secured the capital needed but I needed some support and guidance from Cedar to get me on the right path.




Hazel CraiganHazel Craigan - Personal Assistant, Public Health Agency

Hazel Craigan is an important asset to the Public Health Agency, where she has worked since 2019. As Personal Assistant to the Assistant Director, Hazel has a key role and has continued to work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Her role includes diary management, admin support and coordination of meetings, and she provides an important liaison role between the PHA, Department of Health, Health Care Trusts and other professional bodies.

Speaking about her experience Hazel said: “The extra needs and communication support that I require as a Deaf British Sign Language user don’t limit my ability in any way. I love my job, I love interacting with the public and I can’t thank RNID enough for everything they have done for me.”



Colin McElroyColin McElroy - Support Officer, Disability Action

Colin McElroy thoroughly enjoys his job. He is a Support Officer for Disability Action’s Job Match programme. He thrives helping people with disabilities find and maintain jobs – he absolutely knows the value of the work because he too has previously participated in the programme.

Colin was a lorry driver for almost 20 years. In 2006 his life changed dramatically when a fall left him requiring surgery for a broken back and the devastating news that he could never drive a lorry again. Speaking about his experience Colin said: “I never would have thought 20 years ago that I’d do anything other than drive lorries, but here I am in a completely different career and I couldn’t be happier!


Alicia ClarkeAlicia Clarke and Action Mental Health

Alicia joined Action Mental Health during lockdown and took part in their online programmes. She said, "“These provided me with new skills and tools to deal with my anxiety and helped to rebuild my confidence. The project provided structure to my day, gave me purpose and the opportunity to learn new skills while polishing up old ones - I really enjoyed all of it – it helped me find my feet again."

“I’m very grateful to Action Mental Health for the support they offered during lockdown. I have learnt so much this time, I know I now have the skills to stop my anxiety becoming overwhelming in the future. How do I feel right now? I am excited for the future.”



Lesley CaldwellLesley Caldwell - Home Picking Shopper, ASDA

Lesley Caldwell thoroughly enjoys her job as a Home Picking Shopper for ASDA, it provides her with financial independence and a sense of fulfilment. During the Covid-19 pandemic Lesley was deemed a keyworker by government and played an important role in retail.
Beginning her journey with Asda in 2009 through a voluntary work placement, Lesley who has a learning disability, gained confidence in herself and her abilities whilst also getting the opportunity to explore the range of different job roles available within the Coleraine store.


William MooneyWilliam Mooney - Recycling Operative, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

Returning to the working world after a decade would be daunting for anyone, but for William Mooney it was the step he needed to take. William had been unable to work after suffering a pro lapsed disc and had faced the added pressure of dealing with dyslexia.

Having previously worked in London for nearly 30 years in the engineering sector, William decided that with the help of the Positive Directions Programme he now wanted to develop and utilise his career portfolio and step back into a job. William was invited for interview within a few weeks of joining the programme and successfully secured a full-time role with Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council as a recycling operative.

Many thanks to ​the Northern Ireland Union of Supported Employment and all organisations that helped us to highlight these case studies. Special thanks to Ben, Hazel and Colin who have shared their personal experiences of getting back into employment, especially during the Covid pandemic.

Download our pdf publication: Making It Work - Employment support services for people with disabilities

< Recruiting people with disabilities The Reasonable Adjustment Duty >
Good Practice >
Positive Action >
This is not an exhaustive list of local disability organisations that employers might develop partnerships with, but they are ones that provide pathways to supported employment programmes funded by the Department of Communities, such as Workable NI.

Northern Ireland Union of Supported Employment
Gortfoyle House
104 Spencer Road
BT47 6AG
Tel: 028 7137 7709

Disability Action
Head Office
Portside Business Park
189 Airport Road West
Belfast  BT3 9ED 
Tel: 028 9029 7880

Ulster Supported Employment Ltd
Head Office
182-188 Cambrai Street
Belfast  BT13 3JH
Tel: 028 9035 6600

Supported Employment Solutions
1 Ravenhill Reach Close
Belfast  BT6 8RB
Tel: 028 9046 1834

Department for Communities
The Department offers employers a dedicated account manager to support their recruitment needs and to broker access to the wider public sector’s employability and skills provision.

For further information contact:

Disability Programmes Team: health&

Recruitment Support Team:


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