Publication - Disability Sectoral Plan July 2006 - 8. Disability Workplace Management: Employment of People with Disabilities

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8. Disability Workplace Management: Employment of People with Disabilities


8.1. Part V of the Disability Act 2005

Part V of the Act, sections 46 to 50 refers to public service employment of people with disabilities, including quotas, monitoring compliance with the Act, as well as positive action measures to enhance employment of people with disabilities and the development of a Code of Practice.

Part 5 came into operation on 31 December 2005 and established a statutory basis for the 3% target for the employment of persons with disabilities by public bodies (other than the Defence Forces, Garda and prison officers). It requires Departments to establish monitoring committees to monitor compliance by the public bodies under its remit. The Department of Finance retains responsibility for monitoring compliance in relation to the Civil Service. The National Disability Authority is given an overall monitoring role and can direct bodies to take measures to ensure compliance.

8.2. Staff with Disabilities: Current Statistics

Each year, the Department reports to the Department of Finance on the number of staff with disabilities employed in the Department.

In relation to the agencies under the aegis of the Department the position in the future will be that this information will be sent to the National Disability Authority (NDA).

Current Position

Department Social & Family Affairs




Combat Poverty


Family Services Agency


Pensions Board


Office of Pensions Ombdusman


8.3. Departmental Commitments

The Department is committed to creating a positive working environment for all employees. Due to the specific and varied needs of staff with disabilities it has placed a particular emphasis on providing these employees with the supports they require. A High-Level Goal in the Department's Strategy Statement, 2005-2007, " Security with Opportunity", is:

" To develop an effective, adaptable and capable organisation and a culture of pride, innovation and performance with a high level of involvement by people at all levels and a climate which fosters personal and career development."

The Department's Human Resources Strategy 2003-2005, " Partnership, Development and Performance", included a specific commitment to progress initiatives aimed at addressing issues affecting staff with disabilities. (A new three-year Human Resources Strategy is in development).

Significant progress has been made on these commitments, as set out below:

  • A Disability Liaison Officer was appointed and as part of her role she has communicated the benefits of staff disclosing that they have a disability.
  • Internal service providers liaise and co-operate with each other in the provision of services for staff with disabilities.
  • A Needs Assessment structure for new staff or staff who acquire a disability is in operation.
  • A review of Assistive Technology (AT) requirements for visually impaired staff members and hearing impaired staff members has been carried out. Equipment has been purchased and training provided. Staff with disabilities are assigned as key user testers for future AT packages.
  • A Disability Issues Monitoring Committee was established on foot of a Workplace Partnership Report on the needs of staff with disabilities.
  • Disability Awareness Guidelines were developed and issued to all members of staff.
  • Awareness raising initiatives for managers and staff in relation to diversity/disability have been developed and implemented.
  • Links with a range of external disability organisations have been established.

These initiatives all form part of the Department's Action Plan under the "Sustaining Progress".

8.4. Consultation with Staff with Disabilities

In recent years, the Department has engaged in consultation with staff members with disabilities in order to help formulate the organisation's human resources policy on disability-related issues by improving our understanding of the nature and implications of disabilities in the workplace. This has enabled the Department to identify the main issues which affect staff with disabilities and particular needs which may arise. This identification of needs has afforded the Department the opportunity to address these requirements through the provision of services by the internal support areas to these staff with disabilities. The consultation with staff with disabilities has also provided valuable input to the Department's development of policies for its external customers with disabilities.

8.5. Recruitment and Selection of Staff with Disabilities

Some people with disabilities who are employed in the Department were recruited by way of competitions, conducted by the Public Appointments Service (PAS), which were specifically held for persons with disabilities. Others were appointed on the basis of their participation in open competitions also conducted by PAS. The Department will continue to liaise with and enhance its good working relationship with PAS with the objective of ensuring best practice in the area of the recruitment/assignment of staff with disabilities.

In relation to internal staff promotions and competitions, at application stage candidates are asked if they have any particular requirements, for example regarding physical access for attendance at interview. All interview boards are fully briefed and provided with guidelines on communication with people with disabilities and the provisions of employment equality legislation. Signers to assist staff with hearing impairments are also provided, where requested.

8.6. Departmental Initiatives
8.6.1. Disability Liaison Officer (DLO)

The DLO is based within the Personnel/ HR function and has responsibility to promote the interests of staff with disabilities and co-ordinate the achievement of the Department's objective of ensuring a supportive working environment that meets the particular needs of these employees. Key elements of the role are:

  • To promote the interests of staff with disabilities.
  • To liaise and co-operate with internal and external service providers in ensuring specific needs are met.
  • To communicate information and advice to staff and managers on disabilities issues
  • To research best practice in other organisations
8.6.2. Disclosure of Disability

The Department's Personnel/HR function has encouraged self-disclosure of a disability via various channels, e.g. internal circulars and staff magazines . Primarily, this is done to identify any particular requirements of individuals, however experience has shown that this also adds to the corporate knowledge regarding disability issues, facilitating the development of effective departmental policies for staff with disabilities.

8.6.3. Needs Assessment Process

A needs assessment procedure for staff with disabilities, whether they are new employees, those who have acquired a disability and those moving due to transfer or promotion within the Department, has been implemented. This process was designed through consultation with staff with disabilities in the Department. The procedure involves on-site visits by the Disability Liaison Officer, Health & Safety Officer and a representative from Information Services Division in which the individual's specific needs e.g. physical access, IT and HR requirements are discussed with the staff member and their line manager. In relation to staff affected by the decentralisation programme, the needs assessment process will have an important part to play - whether they are moving within the Department or to other Departments.

For staff members who have acquired a disability and also staff returning from long-term sick leave, the Department has adopted a phased return to work with the individual attending work on reduced hours initially and gradually building up to a full working day at the end of an agreed period.

8.6.4. Assistive Technology

A priority within the Department's Information Systems Division (ISD) has been the provision of various types of Assistive Technology to meet the needs of staff with disabilities. The first step in achieving this was for ISD to engage in research and build up a level of knowledge and expertise of the availability and functionality of Assistive Technology products.

In order to facilitate the deployment of Assistive Technology, a structure has been established which ensures the fast tracking of requests for specialised equipment. A ring-fenced budget has been designated solely for the procurement and research of Assistive Technology. Links have been established with external disability organisations so that staff can be assessed for the type of equipment best suited to their needs.

New in-house applications are being developed to be fully accessible to all. This is being achieved by liaising with expert consultancy groups and by including staff with a range of disabilities in the design of processes and user testing of processes. The new applications must adhere to at least Priority 1 guidelines as published by the National Disability Authority.

Further research is being undertaken into the technology available to those with physical and cognitive disabilities. Consultation with organisations such Enable Ireland and the Central Remedial Clinic is in progress.

8.6.5. Workplace Partnership Group

Under the Department's Workplace Partnership process a Disability Issues Sub-Group was established in 2003 to examine, in some detail, and report on issues affecting staff with disabilities in the Department. The group was representative of staff with different natures of disabilities and also included staff from relevant support areas.

Following on from the production of the report, "An Enabling Environment", a Disabilities Issues Monitoring Committee was established to monitor progress on the recommendations contained in the report which had been accepted by the Management Committee and Partnership Steering Committee.

The role of the Committee whose membership included staff with disabilities was to carry out regular assessments and monitor progress of recommendations made and to meet with relevant support areas to discuss the implementation of these.

8.6.6. Disability Awareness Guidelines

Disability Awareness Guidelines were produced and circulated to all members of staff in 2004 and again in 2005. These guidelines were developed in consultation with members of staff with disabilities, having regard to good practice internationally and particularly emphasise effective communication with people with disabilities. The content of the guidelines includes material which staff with disabilities themselves considered particularly important.

8.6.7. The Role of the Manager

All staff have a role to play in supporting colleagues with disabilities, in particular line managers. The Department produced a Support for Managers Pack providing information supports that are required for a line manager to carry out their role effectively. Included in this pack is advice to line managers on their role in supporting staff with disabilities and a list of practical steps which should be taken in order for them to do so.

8.6.8. Training and Development

Staff Development Unit (SDU) is the central training function in the Department. In addition to this area, there are training units based in IS Division, Decentralised and Regional Offices and our General Benefits area. As a matter of policy SDU makes no distinctions when offering training courses. Formal training requests by all staff are submitted on the agreed PMDS training and development form. Course invitations include a section which asks for any specific requirements or needs. These needs are subsequently facilitated. Additional expertise in delivering training is provided, when required, by CMOD, NCBI, Enable Ireland and the National Council for the Deaf. Apart from the formal courses there are a variety of other training delivery options for staff to choose from including self-learning, intranet, coaching, CDs, books and videos.

The Department's Training & Development Strategy 2005-2008 contains a specific commitment in relation to staff with disabilities as follows; "Ensure that all training programmes are accessible to staff with disabilities, including physical location, course presentation and content". This commitment will be measured by evidence of training programmes being held at accessible locations, with availability of sign language interpretation and loop systems and accessible course materials (e.g. large print, Braille) and the use of assistive technology where appropriate.

8.6.9. Flexible Working Arrangements

The Department has a range of flexible working arrangements available to all staff including; flextime, job sharing, etc. These arrangements may be of benefit to some staff with disabilities in terms of workplace accommodation and employment retention.

8.7. Best Practice (02 Ability Awards)

The O2 Ability Awards, created and designed by The Aisling Foundation, are the first Irish business awards for best practice in the employment of people with disabilities. The Awards examines all aspects of employment and recognises progressive attitudes and examples of best practice in organisations in relation to employment of people with disabilities.

The Department won awards in the following three categories in the 2006 O2 Ability Awards:

  • Leadership
  • Learning, Development and Progression
  • Retention and Well Being
8.8. Central Developments for the Civil Service
8.8.1. DLO Network

An inter-departmental Disability Liaison Officers (DLO) network was established on a formal basis in spring 2005 and has been meeting regularly since then. The objective of the network is to allow DLOs to share knowledge and best practice in relation to the employment of people with disabilities, and to ensure that DLOs are kept up to date on legal requirements under equality legislation. The research report mentioned below identified the DLOs as vital to the implementation of a refocused disability policy, through their role of support and information provision to staff with disabilities and to managers to whom someone with a disability is being assigned. This Department plays an active role in the DLO Network.

8.8.2. Research Report

A research report entitled "Employment & Career Progression of People with a Disability in the Irish Civil Service" was undertaken by Goodbody Economic Consultants on behalf of the Department of Finance. The report proposed a new approach to the implementation of Government policy on the employment of people with disabilities. Department of Finance Circular 18/04, sets out the main conclusions and recommendations of the research report. The circular highlights the key areas where action will be taken to implement the recommendations. These include the development of the Code of Practice, appointment of a Disability Advisory Officer (as set out below) enhanced monitoring and recording arrangements and new approaches to recruitment and placement of staff with disabilities.

8.8.3. Disability Advisory Officer

The Department of Finance has appointed a full-time Disability Advisory Officer, who is based in its Equality Unit. Their role is to build up a body of expertise which can be drawn on by Departments and Disability Liaison Officers. This Department liaises on a regular basis with the Disability Advisory Officer.

8.8.4. Code of Practice

A new Code of Practice on the Employment of People with Disabilities in the Civil Service is currently being drafted by the Department of Finance. It will include an emphasis on the need to support the career progression of staff with disabilities and policies as to how this can be achieved.

8.8.5. Recruitment Competitions

The Department of Finance are in discussions with the Public Appointments Service (PAS) in relation to the recruitment of people with disabilities into the Civil Service with a view to running appropriate competitions.

8.8.6. Sick Leave

The regulations that govern sick leave within the Civil Service can be of particular importance to staff with disabilities. The Department of Finance Circular 17/03 amended the provisions on clearance of candidates for establishment and promotion. It clarified the procedures to be followed where a staff member with a disability is being considered for establishment or promotion. The Department's Attendance Management Policy includes specific reference to the needs of staff with disabilities in this regard.

8.9. Commitments and Actions 2006/2008 Sectoral Plan

A matrix of objectives, actions and related performance indicators are detailed in tables 1 to 5 below and represent the main areas for progression with regard to staff with disabilities. The commitments and actions also reflect the Department's commitment to fully meet the provisions of the human resources aspects of the Disability Act, 2005. The work programme is set out under the following headings;

  • Departmental Strategies and Plans
  • Staff Supports
  • Raising Awareness
  • Recruitment
  • Employment/Personal and Career Progression
8.10. Departmental Strategies and Policies



Performance Indicator

Ensure that Disability Workplace management is an integral feature of the Department's HR Strategy, Policies and Practice

Include a commitment to and related actions with regard to supporting staff with disabilities in the Department's Human Resources Strategy 2006-2008.

Inclusion in Strategy and subsequent Progress Reports on Strategy


Further develop the role of the Department's Disability Liaison Officer and provide them with additional training and support

Development of role. Attendance at training programmes


Hold regular meetings of the Disability Monitoring Committee, and communicate developments to all staff.

Regular meetings held. Outputs communicated to staff using variety of methods


Consider whether the Department should participate in further accreditation schemes which incorporate disabilities issues with the aim of receiving external, expert evaluation and guidance regarding best practice in this area.

Examination of options. If appropriate, participation in accreditation scheme(s)

8.11. Recruitment



Performance Indicator

Ensure that the recruitment of persons with disabilities is developed with the Public Appointments Service

Continue to work with the Public Appointments Service and other relevant organisations regarding best practice in the area of the recruitment and assignment of staff with disabilities

Liaison with PAS. Development of enhanced policies and procedures


Participate in the 2006 Willing Able Mentoring (WAM) programme which provides work placements for graduates with disabilities.

Explore other suitable recruitment/work experience arrangements

Participation in programme in Q2/Q3 2006.Examination of other such arrangements and, if appropriate, participation in same


Liaise with PAS in relation to the open competition for people with disabilities for EO/AO grades in the Civil Service

Liaison with PAS. Communication to DSFA staff about he competition

8.12. Staff Supports



Performance Indicator

Ensure that all staff with disabilities or who acquire a disability are fully supported in the workplace and can realise their potential

Operate the Needs Assessment Process for staff with disabilities, for new entrants, existing staff on transfer/promotion and staff who acquire a disability. Seek opportunities to enhance the process.

Continue the policy (voluntary and confidential) of encouraging self-disclosure of a disability by staff.


Operation of process and introduction of any appropriate enhancements.

Regular communication of disclosure policy and monitoring of responses.


Identify and progress the Assistive Technology (AT) requirements of staff with disabilities, including the delivery of the necessary training

Implementation of required AT supports and delivery of training


Update and enhance information on disability issues and the supports (including the Disability Liaison Officer) available for staff with disabilities, via the Department’s Human Resources intranet and other sources.

Production and circulation of information and other supports using variety of channels and methods.


Provide additional advice & information to managers in order to assist them in their crucial role in supporting staff with disabilities

Production and circulation of information and other supports

8.13. Raising Awareness



Performance Indicator

Ensure that Disability Awareness is raised and enhanced across the Human Resource function, within DSFA and agencies.

Enhance the Department' Disability Awareness Guidelines, including additional material on mental and emotional health issues.

Issue guidelines to all staff members annually

Circulation of enhanced guidelines to staff in Quarter 3 2006 and at regular intervals thereafter


Continue to liaise with external disability organisations to enhance the Department’s internal expertise and awareness of all issues relating to staff with disabilities

Continuing liaison and co-operation. Availing of opportunities for additional linkages


Provide training for staff based in Personnel/HR on the “reasonable accommodation” aspects of equality legislation, this in turn will be reflected in training and additional awareness raising measures for managers.

Production and circulation of information and other supports using variety of channels and methods.


Provide additional advice & information to managers in order to assist them in their crucial role in supporting staff with disabilities

Delivery of training. Number of staff trained and completed by 2007

8.14. Employment and Career Progression



Performance Indicator

Ensure compliance with Part 5 of the Disability Act

Operate a monitoring committee to monitor compliance of Part 5 of the Disability Act, 2005 - involving representatives from the Department and the agencies under its remit.

Committee meetings held. Annual reports produced (first in Q2 2007).


Implement the Code of Practice for the employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service (currently being drafted by Department of Finance)

Implementation of Code (once published). Implementation completed by Quarter 2 2007.

Systematically develop personal and career progression opportunities for staff with disabilities

Personal and Career Progression

Carry out analysis of the staff with disabilities to gain additional understanding of their particular needs regarding personal and career progression

Consider the findings of the research and consultation processes conducted to date and engage in additional research/consultation in order to identify the main issues for staff with disabilities and measures to address these.

Encourage staff mobility/work rotation practices for staff with disabilities with the aim of them gaining experience in a variety of areas of work.

Encourage staff with disabilities to participate in promotion competitions (both internal and external) and provide the necessary supports (prior to and during the competitions)  

Analysis carried out in Q4 2006.

Research and consultation carried out in Q4 2006 and Q1 2007.

Communications to manager and staff and monitoring of such activity.

Communication to staff and their managers on this issue. Production and circulation of support material. Monitoring of participation rates  


Last modified:08/09/2009

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