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Acquired brain injury

Acquired brain injury (ABI) is the result of damage to the brain. It can be caused by a traumatic event, such as a car crash or surgery, or illness such as a stroke or brain tumour. These can affect people in different ways and result in differing types of impairment.

How does acquired brain injury affect people?

The impact of ABI can be temporary or permanent, and can affect people physically and/or emotionally. It can also affect their behaviour and ability to carry out tasks and process information. People with ABI may experience tiredness or lack stamina, and might also find it difficult to concentrate.

Recruiting people with an acquired brain injury?

When recruiting and someone declares that they have ABI, consider:

  • Allowing additional time at interview and take a more structured approach, rather than just general conversation
  • Asking to see any assessment reports they may have had. These outline what the person is able to do with reasonable adjustments. If they don’t have an assessment one can be requested via their disability employment advisor at Jobcentre Plus
  • Giving the person a work trial before making any offer of employment to make sure that you are both happy and identify any reasonable adjustments that are needed
  • Engaging a specialist employment advisor to help you both through the recruitment process.

Supporting staff who have an acquired brain injury?

Just 41 per cent of people who have an ABI return to work. This number could probably be higher with better support. Some simple adjustments and actions could help your staff with ABI.

  • Consider flexible working arrangements to enable your employees to manage their condition
  • Undertake a risk assessment to see if there are any other associated conditions or issues, such as side effects from medication, that you need to take into account
  • Make instructions and manuals accessible, consider using pictures as well as plain English text
  • Think about using a workplace buddy system to provide ongoing personal support.

Useful information about acquired brain injury

You might need to make some adjustments to help your employees. These could include specialist equipment like chairs and IT equipment. Grants are available through Access to Work to help to cover the cost of items that are identified as necessary to support employees who are disabled or have a health condition.

Take a look at our case studies to see how we have transformed the lives of disabled people.


Headway is the UK-wide charity that works to improve life after brain injury with more than 100 groups and branches across the UK.

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