Employment support for the deaf and hard of hearing

Are you deaf or HoH and looking for a job? Are you currently employed, but unsure of how to get extra support and assistance to make working with hearing loss easier? If you’ve answered yes to either question, you’ve come to the right place. In this handy guide, we have lots of information and advice on how to get started in the world of work, and on how to make sure you are fully supported in employment to do your best and climb the career ladder confidently.

Careers advice for job seekers

If you’re looking for work, it can seem daunting knowing where to start. Fortunately there are lots of organisations and charities offering one-to-one support and personalised careers advice to help deaf and disabled job seekers into employment.

For students and graduates

If you live in England and are at school, college or University, your place of study should have a careers centre where you can go for information and advice about what to do once you finish. Ask your teachers to help you find out more about the service and whether one-to-one support is available.

You may also find it useful checking out the National Deaf Children’s Society (NCDS) careers section for more information.

For all deaf and HoH job seekers

The National Careers Service (NCS) provides information, support and advice to all job seekers living in England. Get in touch to get guidance on CV writing, interview skills and how to find the right job for you. NCS offices are based all over the country, so you should be able to arrange face-to-face meetings with a local advisor – with all the necessary communication aids in place.

If you’re living in Wales, Ireland or Scotland check out your local authority’s website for information on careers support available in your area. You can find out more here.

Other careers support services and job sites in the UK

As well as local authorities, there’s a number of charities and organisations offering specialised support to help people with disabilities enter employment. These include:

  • deafPLUS – for all deaf and disabled job seekers living in London and surrounding areas
  • Scope – a disability charity offering employment services to help deaf and disabled people into work
  • Diversity Jobs – a job site connecting people of all backgrounds, abilities and ethnicities with employers who place high importance on a diverse employee culture
  • EmployAbility – a charity specialising in helping students and graduates with long term health conditions and disabilities into employment
  • Clarion UK – provides employment support for deaf people who are looking for jobs and currently in work
  • Even Break – a charity dedicated to helping disabled job seekers find employment with inclusive employers
  • Deaf Unity jobs section –  our unique jobs section lists all the latest opportunities in the deaf and disabilities sector, where you can find roles in a range of industries.

Access to work

If you’re currently working, or are worried about finding a job where your needs will be fully supported, Access to Work (AtW) is a special scheme designed to make things easier for you in the workplace. Funded by the government, it helps people with disabilities and health conditions to have equal access to workplaces through practical advice and support. It also provides grants towards costs of communication and equipment support, so your employer can make sure you have the right tools and resources to overcome work-related obstacles.

Deaf support available through AtW

Access to Work is a UK-only service available to people aged 16 or over, who have a health condition or disability.

Whether you’re looking for a job self-employed or currently working, AtW can provide:

  • A communicator or BSL interpreter for meetings, conferences and job interviews
  • A support worker, such as a note taker or communicator
  • Specialist equipment, such as phones, hearing amplifiers, portable hearing loop systems, textphones and conference microphones
  • Training for your employer and colleagues to help them better understand and support your needs in the workplace

If you think you could benefit from Access to Work, it’s your responsibility to get in touch and request their services – either via the website or through a Disability Employment Advisor (DEA) at your local Jobcentre. Once you receive a reply, they will get the ball rolling with your employer to make sure you get the right support to assist you in your role.

Find out more about Access to Work and how to apply here.

Your legal rights at work

Access to Work is a leading example of the support you are entitled to in the workplace if you need it. If you live in England, Wales or Scotland, your rights as a deaf employee are protected by the Equalities Act 2010 which means you are entitled to equal access support and should not be discriminated against because of your disability. If you are profoundly deaf and/or wear hearing aids, your employer is legally required to make reasonable adjustments so you are not put at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ with non-disabled people.

Reasonable adjustments include things like:

  • Having a BSL interpreter for meetings
  • Being allowed to work flexible hours
  • Allowing you to work from home sometimes

In Northern Ireland, the law is called the Disability Discrimination Act, and you can find out more information here.

Dealing with discrimination

Unfortunately, research shows 1 in 4 deaf people face discrimination in the workplace, primarily due to lack of suitable support and understanding from their employers. ‘Discrimination’ in the workplace can take many forms, including:

  • Direct discrimination – when you are treated less favourably because of your disability
  • Discrimination arising from your disability –when you’re treated less favourably because of something connected to your disability
  • Indirect discrimination – when a particular practice or rule in the workplace that applies to everyone has a disadvantage for you because of your disability
  • Failure of your employer to make reasonable adjustments
  • Harassment in the workplace that violates your dignity and/or makes your working environment hostile and unpleasant
  • Victimisation – when you’re treated differently because you’ve made or supported a complaint made under the Equality Act

If you think you have been discriminated at work because of your deafness, there are a few things you can do to approach the problem and get help:

  1. Keep a diary of what is going on – so you can record all the times you feel you have been a victim of discrimination. This will help you to better understand the situation from a logical perspective. Feeling discriminated in work can be very stressful and unpleasant, so writing it down will make it easier to digest and understand exactly what is going on.
  2. Talk to someone you trust – Laying out the facts to someone close to you (a friend or family member, for example) will also help you to get better a perspective of the situation. Ask their opinion and they should be able to provide some solid advice to help you make an educated decision on what to do next.
  3. Give your employer/colleagues a chance to resolve the situation – If you feel comfortable doing so, talk to your HR department or your employer and tell them how you’re feeling so they can try to resolve things and make reasonable adjustments.
  4. Next steps – If you’ve tried chatting to your employer or HR department and nothing has been resolved, or you feel the situation cannot be appropriately addressed in this way, get in touch with Citizens Advice or Acas for advice on what to do next. It could be that you need to make a formal complaint (also known as a ‘grievance’) or make a claim in a court or tribunal.

For further information on what to do if you’re being discriminated at work, contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS).