Reasonable Adjustments

If you are an employer, you will have a legal duty to make ‘reasonable’ adjustments if the post or the working environment  would otherwise put a disabled employee at a substantial disadvantage. The Equality Act, 2010 requires that the cost of the adjustment must not be passed on to the disabled employee. 

What might work well for one disabled person may not be appropriate for another disabled person with the same impairment, so it is essential that you discuss with your employee what solutions could work for you both rather than make assumptions.  We encourage employers to regularly ask all their staff (whether they identify as disabled people or not) whether they require any reasonable adjustments as part of their regular staff progress meetings. At Breakthrough, we do this with all staff every six weeks at supervision meetings.  Doing this will help you establish what you might need to put in place – for example if an employee acquires an impairment whilst working for you. If neither you nor the employee knows what is available, you can contact us to talk through options. 

Employers may have to make one, or several, of a range of adjustments to remove the disabling barriers that disabled employee’s face. Most reasonable adjustments are low cost and simply require you consider different ways of working, but some may have a cost attached to them. 

Depending on the circumstances, possible adjustments could include (this is not an exhaustive list): 

  • Altering premises
  • Allocating some duties to another employee
  • Altering working hours
  • Allowing absences during working hours for rehabilitation, assessment or treatment
  • Giving or arranging additional training
  • Providing specialist equipment, acquiring or making changes to equipment
  • Altering instructions in reference manuals
  • Modifying procedures for testing or assessment
  • Providing a reader or interpreter or support worker / P A (personal assistant)
  • Providing supervision 

What could be considered reasonable for a large, well-resourced organisation may not be realistic for a much smaller one. The important thing is to discuss what would work to enable the employee to do their job.  If what you provide isn’t working, talk through options with your employee and seek support if you can’t reach agreement. Breakthrough has a lot of experience of getting reasonable adjustments in place – contact us if you would like us to help find solutions. 

It is good practice for employers to assume that someone who identifies as a disabled person is likely to be covered under the Equality Act, rather than asking for proof before considering or making adjustments. Again, only an Employment Tribunal can decide whether someone is covered by the definition given in the Act.  

Further guidance for employers on making workplace adjustments can be found at: 

Job candidates may also require adjustments when applying for the job or at interview stage. Examples could include:

  • Providing a particular type of seating at the interview
  • Making sure that application materials are available in the right format for you – e.g. large print or audio
  • Allowing extra time for assessment tasks for someone who needs extra time to process written communication
  • Providing a British Sign Language interpreter or other communication support 

Failure to make adjustments for a disabled person is against the law if it would be a reasonable thing for the employer to do, and not making them would put the disabled employee at a substantial disadvantage compared to other non disabled candidates or employees. This is one of the most common reasons that employers end up at tribunals for disability related discrimination.  It is in no-one’s interest to let things get this far – much better to be prepared and pro-active to ensuring all candidates and employees have a barrier free experience in the workplace and you have strong returns on your investment in recruitment and staff. 

Contact us for information and guidance on how to create barrier free environments in your workplace.  As you will see from the examples given in the list above, many adjustments are very easy to implement and cost little or nothing to make.  We can provide workplace audits or one on one support, whichever you need at the time. 

Often it is a case of thinking creatively and finding simple but effective alternatives. There is also government funding available for employers to pay the full or partial cost of more expensive alterations. 

Through our extensive experience of providing solutions to removing barriers in the workplace, we have been able to prevent disability discrimination from occurring and created large savings for employers through early interventions and workplace audits, making sure current workplaces and organisational restructures design in inclusivity right from the outset.

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